What is Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association?
Friedrichs v. CTA is a legal case brought by Rebecca Friedrichs and nine other teachers from Orange County, along with the Christian Educators Association International. The case seeks to overturn 40 years of legal precedent that requires non-union members employed at union-represented workplaces (also known as “closed shops”) to pay “fair share” fees (also known as agency fees) to cover the cost of bargaining and representation (ie. grievance handling). The plaintiffs claim all union activity is political speech, including collective bargaining for better wages, benefits and working conditions, and that any contributions to the union – including fair share fees — infringes on their First Amendment rights.
Who is behind Friedrichs v. CTA?
The plaintiffs are represented by the Center for Individual Rights (CIR) an ultra-conservative organization funded by anti-union funders, including Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who supported Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his strategy to wipe out Wisconsin’s public sector unions. Make no mistake – this case is not actually about a handful of teachers asserting First Amendment rights. It’s part of a well-funded and concerted effort to undercut the Labor Movement and diminish our voice in the workplace.
Why is Friedrichs so dangerous?
The case threatens to do away with closed union shops in the public sector, and as a result, 7.2 million U.S. public employees — including roughly 30,000 IBEW members nationally – would be subject to “Right to Work” (see below for more on “Right to Work”). After the initial Supreme Court oral arguments took place on Jan. 11, 2016, most legal observers predicted the court would rule 5-4 against unions, thanks to particularly pointed questioning from Supreme Court Justice Scalia. A decision was due to be issued by June 30, 2016.
How does the death of US Supreme Court Justice Scalia impact Friedrichs v CTA?
In mid-February, Justice Scalia suddenly died, and “the court is likely split 4-4 on the Friedrichs case, rendering it unable to overturn decades of precedent that have long held that unions could compel fair share fees from non-members who benefit from the union’s collective bargaining and grievance adjudication services. In the event of a tie, the Supreme Court simply affirms the lower court’s ruling, which in this case was a verdict in favor of the union rendered by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in November 2014.” (Source: ibew.com)
Is this a victory for public sector unions?
It is a welcome reprieve and grants us more time to educate our membership about the Union Difference. But the fight isn’t over.
What happens next?
US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts retains the right to hold the case over to be re-argued once a new justice has been nominated and confirmed, but he has not yet indicated how he plans to proceed. At present, Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, have vowed that they will not allow a replacement nominated by President Obama through the confirmation process during his last year in office, potentially delaying any significant court action until 2017. President Obama has promised he will name a successor to Scalia, however, and the battle is setting up to shape the politics for much of the next year. The Koch brothers-supported Center for Individual Rights has already indicated it will file a motion for a rehearing.
It seems like public sector unions dodged a bullet; can we relax?
No. Anti-union forces are continuing their assault against unions, especially public sector unions. In California, attacks on our pensions continue. In states across the country, efforts are still underway to impose “Right to Work” through legislative action.
- In the last four years, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan have gone “Right to Work”. On February 12,, 2016, West Virginia became the 26th “Right to Work” state, following a party-line vote in the state legislature, which over-ruled the governor’s veto of “Right to Work” legislation.
- In November 2016, Virginia will vote on an initiative to change the State Constitution to include “Right to Work.”
- In Wisconsin, Gov. Walker has just signed into law reforms that gut much of the State’s Civil Service system removing seniority, extending probation from six months to two years. (Source: NY Times, 2/21/16)
Who’s behind the anti-union movement?
There is a decades-old battle to reduce labor’s power, led by the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Right to Work Committee, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The National Right to Work Committee and ALEC are funded by corporations and an intricate web of corporate-sponsored foundations, wealthy CEOs including the Koch Brothers, and their networks. ALEC brings together big business leaders and allied lawmakers to produce legislative prototypes. ALEC crafted the “Right to Work” legislation that appears very similar to the proposed “Right to Work” bill in Missouri.
Why is so-called “Right to Work” so bad?
The term “Right to Work” may sound benign, but the policy had widespread ramifications designed to weaken or eliminate unions. A more accurate name would be “Right to Work for Less,” since this policy aims to take away our ability to bargain collectively, do away with our hard fought union contracts & benefits, silence our voice at work and undermine critical protections, including daily overtime, annual wage increases, paid family leave and meal breaks. Unions are required by law to represent non-union employees regardless as to whether they pay dues or fees, so by eliminating the “fair share” fees for non-union members, “Right to Work” encourages free-riders and incentivizes members to stop paying dues. Without those funds, the union is weakened drastically and has fewer resources to engage in bargaining, representation and organizing.
What are our IBEW Local 1245 dues?
IBEW 1245 union dues are 1.5% of base pay. These dues are used to defend the members’ rights and improve their living standards. Smart unions also use their funds to organize more workers in their industry. Why? Because non-union employers create downward pressure on wages in the labor market. In addition, each member pays $18/month to the International Organization of the IBEW.
What is IBEW 1245’s policy on supporting political candidates & ballot initiatives?
IBEW 1245 has a political donation account. Once a year, the union transfers $5 from each member’s union dues into this account. A member may request a refund of that $5 political contribution and will receive it, no questions asked. When the union chooses to support political campaigns, it does so based on the candidate’s commitment to workers’ rights, irrespective of their political party affiliation. All donations to political causes are reviewed and approved by IBEW 1245’s Executive Board – a committee made up of members who are elected by the membership. The union also contributes to non-partisan local elections which directly affect our members and statewide and local initiatives that are issue-oriented. Recent examples include defeating Proposition 32 in California, and supporting candidates in local jurisdictions where IBEW 1245 members work, such as the Merced Irrigation District Board, Redding & Oakland City Councils, and the Lompoc Mayor’s race.
What percentage of our IBEW 1245 union dues go to politics?
At $5 per member per year, that amounts to less than 1% of dues going to politics. The other 99% go to core functions, including collective bargaining, representation, and grievance handling, training and organizing.
In April of 2013, a handful of anti-union teachers, supported by a cadre of right-wing think tanks, brought a lawsuit in federal court in California. Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA) is a First Amendment challenge to California’s Agency Fee Statute as well as the “opt-out” requirements for paying said fees.
The suit seeks to overturn Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977) which (simply stated) established agency fees in public sector units. Should Abood be overturned, the impact would be national “Right to Work” in the public sector. Unions will no longer be able to charge non-members any fees whatsoever. In addition, should the Court choose to only take up the opt-out question, an adverse ruling would mean unions would likely be required to obtain individual permission from members (opt-in) in order to continue to collect any dues. This case has serious implications for both the IBEW and the labor movement as a whole.