Public sector unions as expected dodged a major bullet yesterday when the Supreme Court deadlocked on whether to end their right to collect agency fees from non-union public sector workers to cover the costs of contract bargaining and administration, such as defending grievances.
Certainly, the decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association provides a sense of relief to the many dedicated public employees who are members of the Teamsters and other unions. Those workers can rest easy that their collective voices and their negotiated contracts still mean something in this country.
In the most important union case in a generation, the high court recognized that a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would hurt all workers nationwide in their fight for rights and decency on the job. At a time when income inequality is already a top concern, the last thing this country would have needed was more of it.
John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 117, agreed, saying the “ruling affirms 40 years of precedent that working people have the right to a strong and effective union. Union rights are fundamental to an economy that works for all Americans. The Supreme Court rejected a political scheme to silence working people.”
Sticking up for union jobs is essential because it paves the way to a middle-class lifestyle. The median union worker makes more than $200 more a week than non-union workers. That's why the Teamsters stressed the need for more union jobs in its “Let's Get America Working” campaign. Workers earning more don’t just help their families; they help the economy at large as well because they spend more.
But the ruling is not the end of the story in the fight for workers. In fact, it’s only the beginning. The Teamsters and other unions must remain vigilant in efforts to organize and convincing workers to join with their colleagues in this movement. More membership will help ensure a stronger America and protect us from future attacks that are likely to come.