RTW (AKA Busting Unions)

The U.S. Supreme Court plans to hear a case that, should it be decided in favor of the plaintiffs, could do to unions what King v. Burwell sought to do to the Affordable Care Act.

The case in question involves public sector unions.  Specifically, a group of California teachers have petitioned the Court, claiming their First Amendment rights have been violated.  How so?  They cite having to pay fees to a union for services the union might perform on their behalf, whether or not want to join it, as the violation they allege.

Trouble is, a ruling in agreement with this position would overturn a legal precedent of almost four decades.  That precedent, set in 1977 in the case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, established the principle that public workers can pay what are called "fair share" fees if they are represented by a union, even if they are not members.  The status of Abood as settled law has been upheld by both a federal district court, and by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  But that may not be enough.  For instance, in a 5-4 opinion last year, Justice Samuel Alito called Abood questionable on several grounds, implying at least some support for the concept of right-to-work.

Mishandling language drives me crazy.  In particular, using words to obfuscate or confuse, rather than to clarify or inform, sets me off.  Take that phrase right to work.  Sounds benevolent, doesn’t it?  At first hearing, one might conclude that it indicates a belief in the right of every American to work where and how he or she chooses.

Canard alert!!!  RTW is simply the most recent tactic adopted by conservative state legislatures for their union-busting efforts.  Historically, the far right has failed to deep-six many of the advances championed by unions.  Unions are the reason we have 40-hour work weeks, overtime pay, paid sick leave, minimum wage laws, workplace safety and health laws, and more.  But we’re not out of the woods yet, as this statement from a number of teachers and public-sector employees unions indicates.

The Supreme Court is revisiting decisions that have made it possible for people to stick together for a voice at work and in their communities — decisions that have stood for more than 35 years.

Private-sector union membership has declined over the last 40 years.  But unions of government workers help balance the representation equation.  Here’s hoping SCOTUS rules as progressively in this instance as it did regarding Obamacare.

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Michele Petrovsky holds a Master's Degree in Computer Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. She spent over two decades teaching in colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and currently publishes two blogs: Thoughts4Change and I Owe It All to J Thaddeus Toad. Petrovsky resides in Glen Mills, PA.


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