As the Supreme Court prepares to hear its most important organized labor case of the year, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, a group of 21 state Attorneys General have announced a plan to officially support the labor union side. Among those taking the lead in the effort to file a brief in the case is New York AG Eric Schneiderman who, along with Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and a group of elected officials and many labor leaders, formally announced their plan on Sunday at New York City Hall.
The case would challenge public unions’ ability to collect mandatory fees from workers’ paychecks. The group of 10 teachers at the heart of the case argue that the fees violate their first amendment right to free speech. Labor backers see the case as a way to financially drain unions and weaken the ability to organize.
The precedent for the case was set in the Supreme Court’s 1977 decision in Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education, gave states the right to mandate fair share provisions for exclusive collective bargaining related activities.
“The right to organize is a fundamental right for American workers. Unions go hand-in-hand with a strong middle class. Organizing gives workers the power to lift themselves out of poverty and build a better future. The Supreme Court should follow settled precedent and allow states like New York to manage our own labor relations to achieve labor peace and government efficiency and to continue our long tradition of support for workers,”
In the joint statement with Schneiderman, Connecticut AG Jepsen said:
“There is nothing remotely fair about dismantling fair-share arrangements in public sector union contracts. Unions are obligated to expend resources to represent all workers, members and nonmembers alike, and all workers benefit from the important protections unions secure through collective bargaining. Strong public sector unions are and should remain important partners in ensuring effective government for citizens. The Supreme Court should respect the states’ rights to structure their labor relations as they see fit, and avoid needlessly disrupting long settled practices and the agreements they have produced.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio joined the call to action as well, issuing a statement of his own:
“New York stands with its unions and the working- and middle-class families that unions protect. Unions have been key in the fight against inequality, and their role remains vital today when workers’ rights are increasingly under attack.”
As part of the joint statement, Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO, provided no-nonsense appreciation:
“The corporate CEOs behind Friedrichs want nothing more than to silence working people and break the scales which are already tilted in their favor. They know when working people join together, they have the power to improve their wages, benefits and working conditions and that scares them deeply. We thank Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for having the courage to stand up to very powerful interests on behalf of working men and women, and for understanding and appreciating the important role unions play in providing a voice for workers.”
The planned brief will include the signatures and support of the Attorneys General from Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.