Archives for category: Unions

Facing an unprecedented round of new cuts and mass layoffs, the CTU will rally in protest on Monday.

November 20, 2015 312/329-6250 (office)

CTU’s Karen Lewis to lead thousands of members in Monday’s labor rally as members gear up to take strike authorization vote

CHICAGO –The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) will hold a spirited winter labor solidarity rally at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, November 23rd in Grant Park at Butler Field. Thousands of teachers, paraprofessionals and school clinicians will be joined by students, parents, elected officials, activists, clergy and others in a spirited event designed to showcase the union’s solidarity and prepare its members for an upcoming strike authorization vote. The rally, which will feature a keynote address by CTU President Karen Lewis and a special performance by Hip Hop group Rebel Diaz, is free and open to the general public and will include free food and hot beverages for participants.

Teachers will also pay special tribute to victims of Chicago’s gun violence, including Dr. Betty Howard, a special education teacher at Brooks Academy, who was killed by gunfire in May 2014, and the scores of CPS students impacted by the city’s homicides and out-of-control gun violence. The following is for media planning purposes. A press riser and “mult-box” will be made available for broadcast media; and other reporters.


Chicago Teachers Union officials: President Karen Lewis, Vice President Jesse Sharkey, Recording Secretary Michael Brunson, Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle; CTU’s Big Bargaining Team; CTU Rank and File members; Loretta Johnson, secretary/treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers, Washington, D.C.; Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery; Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., president Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Ald. Sue Garza (10th Ward); Rep. Mary E. Flowers (31st); Rep. Robert Martwick (19th District); Ken Franklin, president Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308; Tommy Sams, president Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241; Keith Kelleher, president Service Employees International Union/HCII; Audrey Sauglin, president Illinois Education Association; Aislin Pulley, Black Lives Matter; Destiny Evans, student leader, Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep; Matthew Mata, student leader, Walter Payton Prep High School; family of the late Dr. Betty Howard, CPS teacher killed by gun violence; Joanne Murray, AFSCME rank and file leader; Elder Kevin Ford, St. Paul Church of God in Christ; Mike Siviwe Elliot, Chicago Alliance Against Political Repression; Atty. Rene Heyback, Chicago Coaltion for the Homeless; Asia Harris, spoken word artist; Katelyn Johnson, executive director of Action NOW; Anna Jones, Dyett Hunger Striker/Kenwood Oakwood Community Organization; Stephanie De Leon, student leader, Brighten Park Neighborhood Council; Rev. Paul Jakes, pastor New Tabernacle of Faith, MB Church; Rebel Diaz; and, others.


CTU Winter Labor Solidarity Rally & Community Tailgate


Monday, November 23, 2015
5:30 PM to 7:30 PM*

(A pre-rally speak out begins at 4:30 p.m. in preparation for the main event)


Butler Field, Grant Park

100 S. Lake Shore Drive


The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 27,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information please visit CTU’s website at

This is the story of an enthusiastic young teacher who eagerly sought a position in a Michigan charter school, only to be disillusioned by the administration’s indifference to teachers and their views about their work.

When teachers in the charter school became frustrated by their powerlessness, they decided to form a union. Bad idea. The enthusiastic young teacher was out of a job and out of teaching.

The story is bigger than just one person, however. It is the story of how charters began with the sponsorship of the nation’s most important union leader, Albert Shanker, but is now vehemently opposed to unions.

Nationally, 93% of charter schools are non-union. Their teachers are at-will employees.

In Michigan, 79% of the charters operate for profit.

This was not what Shanker had in mind.

When reformers wonder why unions oppose charter schools, it is because the overwhelming majority of charter schools do not permit their teachers to join a union and to have a voice in their working conditions, in the curriculum, or discipline policies, or anything else.

The money behind the charter movement never wanted unions in their schools.

[Michigan’s] focus on free markets and privatization — 79 percent of Michigan’s charter schools are run by for-profit management companies— set a somewhat strained tone between the local unions and the charter movement. Nationally a similar phenomenon was occurring, resulting in the AFT and the National Education Association, the two largest teachers unions, taking national stances against charters as well. In 1993, one year after the first charter opened, Shanker himself renounced the idea, calling charters an anti-union “gimmick.”

As unions pushed against charter schools, the education reform movement shoved back with a narrative of schools in crisis, which largely blamed incompetent teachers, and the unions protecting them, for the achievement gap. Charter schools could do their part in this generation’s civil rights battle — education equality — by using their flexibility to get around unions and collective bargaining, and instead stand up for hiring-and-firing latitude.

While the Michigan Association of Public School Academies’ spokesperson Buddy Moorehouse says the coalition for charter school leaders “does not have an official stance on unions” (MT tried getting in touch with president Dan Quisenberry on several occasions but he would only speak through Moorehouse), their website indicates partiality explaining that most charter schools don’t have unions because they “prefer the ability to [be] innovative and remove the red tape element when a teacher is not performing.”

The Great Lakes Education Project, a Michigan-based charter advocacy group, more accurately highlights the dichotomy between unions and charter schools. Funded largely by the right-to-work, union adverse DeVos clan, the organization has been forthright in its declaration of union failures, stating on its website in 2004 that unions are “status quo forces looking to protect their cash cow.”

The entire article is worth reading to understand the politics of unions and charters. Unions are now trying to organize charter teachers, and they hail each school that they win as a big success, but the reality is that the charter movement is at heart a union-busting movement. Its leaders are hostile to unions, as they are to public audits and any other intrusion on their freedom to operate as they wish with public money.

The Chicago Teachers Union has shown that it is not afraid to strike. In 2012, its decision to strike was approved by a near unanimous vote. Now, teachers are bracing for more budget cuts, even as the Rahm Emanuel-picked Board of Education shifts resources and students to nonunion charter schools.

It it is a strange world we live in when a mayor of a major city calls himself a Democrat as he doubles down on his war against public schools and unions.

What do you call Mayor Emanuel? A Republicrat?

Here is the latest from the Chicago Teachers Union:

November 2, 2015 312-329-6250

Chicago Teachers Union prepares the rank-and-file for possible labor strike as threats of mass layoffs continue

CHICAGO – Today, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked public schools chief announced a change in his proposed timeline to lay off 5,000 or more educators who are demanding a fair labor contract. CEO Forest Claypool claims teachers could start losing their jobs as early as January, shortly after the end of the holiday season. This is why the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is encouraging members to start saving a portion of their paychecks in order to weather a possible labor strike.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) continues with its plan to remove protections for experienced and qualified educators who lose their positions through no fault of their own. Massive layoffs only exacerbate the current 50 percent teacher turnover rate every five years — something that interferes with continuity and quality instruction.
“We are asking teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians in our bargaining unit to save at least 25 percent of their pay in preparation for a possible strike,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “With the uncertainty in Springfield, the continued chaos at the Board of Education, and the constant threats to our classrooms, we have to be prepared. Our families will depend on us being able to weather what could be a protracted strike.”

Lewis also said more than 200 schools have taken unofficial, independent straw polls testing the members’ strike-ready temperatures but the union will run its own mock strike vote this week. “Teachers are feeling the strain placed on them by principals who have to work with reduced budgets and cuts to special education and other necessary programs. Class sizes are ballooning and the district is crying broke when it comes to our demands for more teaching resources while at the same time cheering themselves on while opening multi-million dollar charter operations. This makes no sense. We have to take a stand for our profession and for our students and their families.”

On Thursday, November 5th, the CTU will run an official ‘practice’ strike vote and contract poll in all CPS school buildings. The exercise helps prepare members should they decide to take an official strike vote in the coming days. State law requires 75 percent affirmative vote from CTU’s entire membership. However, a strike authorization vote is an internal union affair of which the Board has absolutely no legal right to interfere in any way.

In three weeks, thousands of CTU members are expected to present a unified front on November 23rd when they rally in Grant Park at Butler Field, 100 S. Lake Shore Drive. In addition to hearing speeches from Union leaders, people will listen to testimonies from parents, community leaders, students and other labor leaders. The 5:30 p.m. event will include a tailgate, with free food and beverages, and include a special commemoration for CPS students who have been killed or impacted by gun violence.

Labor talks between the CTU and the Board remains in mediation and negotiations are ongoing. Should CTU members decide to strike it will the second teachers strike in the last three years, both of which will have occurred during the Emanuel administration.

The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 27,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information please visit CTU’s website at

[NOTE: This piece was cross-posted at Salon:

Peter Cunningham, who previously served as Arne Duncan’s Assistant Secretary for Communications, is a very charming fellow. When he left the administration, he returned to Chicago and was invited by the Broad Foundation to start a blog defending “reformers” who advocated for charter schools, high-stakes testing, teacher evaluation based on student test scores, and the rest of the Race to the Top agenda. The blog, called “Education Post,” received $12 million from the Broad Foundation, the Bloomberg Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and an anonymous donor.

Peter just wrote a column that puzzled me. It appeared on Huffington Post. He says that teachers’ unions should embrace “reform” if they want public education to survive. I was puzzled because the major thrust of “reform” as currently defined is to privatize as many schools as possible and to eliminate teachers’ unions.

He writes:

“America’s teachers unions probably will not put reform leaders like Newark’s Chris Cerf, Philadelphia’s William Hite, D.C’s Kaya Henderson, or Denver’s Tom Boasberg at the top of their Christmas card mailing list. But they should, because no one is working harder to improve and preserve traditional, unionized, district-run schools.

“Yes, these and other reform superintendents support creating new, high-quality schools, including public charters, and giving all parents the power to choose the right schools for their children. But they and their leadership teams are most deeply committed to investing in and strengthening the existing district-run schools. No one wants these schools to work for kids more than these district leaders.”

Cunningham attributes opposition to charters solely to unions trying to protect their membership and their revenue. Why should unions feel threatened by privately managed charters? As Cunningham notes, 93% of charters are non-union. Cunningham thinks that everyone who opposes turning public tax revenues over to private operators has the sinister motive of protecting the unions. He even says that pro-public education bloggers are merely union fronts. Whether they are teachers, academics, or journalists, Cunningham can’t see any reason for them to question charters other than their allegiance to the unions.

“Charter critics claim that charters pull resources and higher achieving students away from traditional public schools, but, in a poll conducted by Education Post, 65 percent of parents rejected this argument. Instead, they agreed that public charters offer high quality options to parents who have been traditionally denied the power of school choice.

“Teacher unions, who need unionized teachers and dues in order to exist, are fighting desperately to convince parents to stay with the traditional, district-run schools. But rather than appealing to parents on the strength of the education that traditional schools offer, their strategy primarily focuses on limiting funding for charters, capping their growth or organizing their teachers to join a union.

“At the same time, teacher unions have mobilized teacher bloggers, academics, pseudo-journalists and various non-profit organizations to ignore or smear the great work of high-performing charters. They rail against the small percentage that aren’t serving kids well and that reform leaders agree should be, well, reformed.”

What you learn from reading Cunningham’s article is how little he understands about the role of public education in a democracy. He doesn’t know how public schools are central, traditional, and beloved public institutions in most communities. Does he not know that every national poll shows that parents think well of their own local public school?

Why would Cunningham cite a poll in the conservative journal Education Next to rebut charges that charter schools skim the students they want and that charters draw funding away from public schools? These issues are questions of fact, not of public opinion.

How can he not know that many high-performing charters screen out the students with the greatest needs? Was he unaware of the federal GAO report criticizing charters for their small numbers of students with disabilities? Was he unaware of lawsuits filed on behalf of students with disabilities who were excluded from charter schools? How can he not know that charters in some communities, like Chester-Upland in Pennsylvania, are bankrupting the local public schools? How can he not be upset by the avaricious behavior of for-profit charters? Does he not know that the NCAA stripped accreditation from two dozen virtual charter schools because of their low quality? How can he not be outraged by the terrible education offered by virtual charters? How can he overlook the actions of charter operators in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, and other states, where charters are known for their lack of accountability and their poor performance?

I am a critic of charters. I wasn’t always opposed to charters. In 1998, I testified for a charter law before the New York legislature. I thought that charters would enroll the neediest students, the ones who dropped out or were about to drop out. I thought they would share what they learned with the local public schools. I thought this collaboration would help students and strengthen public education.

But it hasn’t worked this way. I never imagined that charters would exclude the neediest students or that they would compete with public schools and boast about their higher test scores. I never imagined that charters would bus their students and parents to political rallies to demand the closing of public schools and the diversion of more money to charter operators. I never imagined that tax dollars would flow to for-profit schools and corporations. I never imagined that charters would be granted to non-educators. I could not have dreamed of charter chains taking the place of community schools.

I grew up in Texas at a time when there was a dual school system. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a dual school system was unconstitutional. It seems that “reformers” today want to re-establish a dual school system: one composed of charters that are free of most state regulations and free to write their own admission rules and discipline rules; this system has the financial support of billionaire hedge fund managers and philanthropists, as well as the U.S. Department of Education. The other system is the public schools, which are bound by law to accept all students, to abide by district, state, and judicial rules governing discipline, and–usually–due process for educators. So charter schools are free to choose their students and avoid regulations.

Does Peter Cunningham know that no high-performing nation in the world has privately managed charter or vouchers? They have strong, well-resourced, equitable public school systems. Privatization favors the haves and disadvantages the have-nots. It increases segregation and inequity.

That’s why so many people oppose privatization. Not because they are controlled by the teachers’ unions, but because they sincerely believe that public services should not be privatized but should remain under public, democratic control.

Rick Cohen of the Nonprofit Quarterly has a must-read report on a recent debate about the Walton Family Foundation. The report and the debate about it were sponsored by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

This debate and the report on which it is based represent a sad turnaround in philosophy for the NCRP. In two previous reports, noted below, the organization warned about the dangers of privatization and specifically singled out the Walton Family Foundation for using its wealth to undermine the public sector. This new report tilts towards the beneficence of the Walton privatization agenda. Has NCRP lost its independence? Or its voice?

In this instance, the roots of the debate were in an NCRP report published in May 2015, part of NCRP’s “Philamplify” series, on the Walton Family Foundation, subtitled, “How Can This Market-Oriented Grantmaker Advance Community-Led Solutions for Greater Equity?” Compared to earlier NCRP reports on the Walton Family Foundation, notably NCRP’s 2005 report, “The Waltons and Wal-Mart: Self-Interested Philanthropy,” and its 2007 follow-up, “Strategic Grantmaking: Foundations and the School Privatization Movement, it was distinctly less critical of the ideology and agenda of the Arkansas philanthropic behemoth. Both earlier reports indicated that the foundation’s promotion of school choice, charter schools, and school vouchers in education reform had led to a pernicious, self-interested crusade to undermine public schools.

When it comes to market approaches, as Sherece West-Scantlebury, the president and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and chair of the NCRP board, noted at the beginning of the debate, NCRP is “agnostic.” In fact, for the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation itself, headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas, West-Scantlebury described the Walton Family Foundation, headquartered in Bentonville 200 miles away, as a “great partner” for her foundation’s programs. Walton has a major programmatic emphasis in its “home region,” with grantmaking focused on Northwest Arkansas and Delta region of Arkansas and Mississippi totaling more than $40 million in 2014, while Winthrop Rockefeller is totally dedicated to Arkansas’s advancement, both with overlapping commitments to education programs in Arkansas, including the two foundations’ joint sponsorship in 2014 of the “ForwARd Partnership for Arkansas Education” initiative.

Cohen admits at the end of the piece that he is not a disinterested observer, because he wrote the earlier reports that were highly critical of the Walton Family Foundation’s support for school privatization. Given that the far-right Walton family (and its Walmart corporation) is opposed to unions, it is not surprising that it would support non-union charter schools and religious schools. It is hard to swallow the claim that support for privatization and union-busting is an agenda for equity, but the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation is able to do so.

You will find the account of the debate interesting. What galled me was that the lead advocate for school choice, Robert Pondiscio of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, invoked the late AFT leader Albert Shanker’s name as a proponent of charter schools. I don’t blame Pondiscio for saying this, as the myth of Shanker’s charter advocacy is widely cited in rightwing circles. But I frequently point out that while Shanker was among the very first to advocate for charter schools in 1988, he renounced his support for charter schools in 1993 in his weekly New York Times paid column. He said that charter schools were an instrument for privatization, no different from vouchers. He became soured on private management because of an experiment in Baltimore that involved a private group called Education Alternatives Inc. It fired unionized paraprofessionals who earned $10 an hour and replaced them with college graduates who worked for $7 an hour. Ironically, one of those college-graduates in the experiment was Michelle Rhee. In 1994, Shanker became more outspoke in his opposition to charters when he discovered that the first charter school in Michigan in 1994 was the Noah Webster Academy, enrolling some 700 students, mostly Christian home-schoolers who were taught a creationist curriculum on computers. The “school,” the computers and the curriculum were publicly funded. I would be very happy if charter cheerleaders stopped invoking Shanker’s name as one of their founding fathers.

Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced legislation to ban so-called “right to work” laws. such laws, passed in 25 states, prevent workers from collective bargaining.

“In March 2015, Scott Walker “proudly” made Wisconsin the 25th right-to-work state, dealing a devastating blow to workers in the state. Right-to-work laws are the right-wing’s favorite way to eliminate the power of unions in their states. They sell it to their constituents as a “protection” for employees against unions, but what the laws really do is leave them vulnerable to the corporations they work for. In Florida, for instance, a worker can be arbitrarily fired and negotiating higher wages is almost unheard of. Sanders’ bill would no longer allow state preemption of federal labor laws and, most importantly, it would make right-to-work laws a thing of the past.

“If passed, the Workplace Democracy Act, sponsored by Sanders and Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, would rectify current laws that deny American laborers their fundamental right to elect people to represent their best interests and negotiate the “terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid or protection” on their behalf.”

Given that Republicans control Congress, the bill has zero chance of passing either House of Congress. But it is an important symbolic gesture on the part of Senator Sanders, showing that he understands that working people need unions to negotiate with powerful corporations.

The New York Times reported a new study showing the value of union membership in boosting academic achievement.

Not only does union membership raise the wages of working people, which means a better standard of living for children, but it leads to policies that help schools and children.

It is well established that unions provide benefits to workers — that they raise wages for their members (and even for nonmembers). They can help reduce inequality.

A new study suggests that unions may also help children move up the economic ladder.

Researchers at Harvard, Wellesley and the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, released a paper Wednesday showing that children born to low-income families typically ascend to higher incomes in metropolitan areas where union membership is higher….

Their most interesting explanation is that unions are effective at pushing the political system to deliver policies — like a higher minimum wage and greater spending on schools and other government programs — that broadly benefit workers. Perhaps not surprisingly, three cities that appear to reflect the union effect — San Francisco, Seattle and New York — are all jurisdictions where the minimum wage is rising substantially (though for New York it is only for workers in fast-food chains.)….

It’s important to emphasize that the study does not establish causality — the authors can’t prove that unions are driving the improvement in mobility. For that matter, they don’t attempt to. The finding establishes only that, in their words, “mobility thrives in areas where unions thrive….”

And that, in turn, suggests something potentially important, though equally speculative, about the effects of unions more broadly: Higher rates of unionization may give rise to certain norms that instill a greater sense of agency in workers.

For example, people who belong to unions are generally aware that they have certain rights in the workplace and are encouraged to speak up if they believe they’ve been mistreated. It’s the kind of norm that could leach out into a broader population — to both union members and their nonunion peers — if unions are sufficiently visible and active, which could in turn help boost economic mobility.

Arthur Goldstein, a veteran high school teacher in the Néw York City public schools and a master blogger, does not agree with Beltway insider Andrew Rotherham that it is too soon to judge Arne Duncan’s tenure as Secretary of Education.

Goldstein does not agree. Goldstein judges Duncan to be not just a failure but a public official who inflicted harm on students, teachers, principals, and public schools.

“Wow. I wish I agreed with that. But with the entire country embracing Race to the Top, Gun to the Head policies like Common Core, I’m not feeling the love. The high-stakes testing and developmentally inappropriate tasks for our children (and not his, or Duncan’s, or Obama’s) are intolerable. That’s not to mention the junk-science teacher ratings that have been foisted upon us, rejected by none other than the American Statistical Association.”

Duncan brought us the “education wars,” with newly energized “reformers” opposing unions, tenure, and public schools, while boasting about the superiority of privately managed charters, especially those that demand robotic compliance by students and teachers.

Goldstein writes:

“I’m not sure the education debate can get any nastier. For one thing, our unions are under attack, and SCOTUS may reduce us to virtual “Right to Work” status. For another, accomplished though King may be, I’ve seen precious little evidence of thoughfulness from him, Diane Ravitch goes so far as to call him “brilliant” based on his academic credentials. But King is remarkably thin-skinned and unable to deal with criticism. He thinks it’s beyond the pale when people comment that his signature programs, Common Core and junk science, are not good enough for his own children, in private schools.

“Furthermore, John King shows little evidence of being able to play well with others. He actually canceled a series of public meetings when people dared disagree with him. In fact, he went so far as to call teachers and parents special interests. That’s what we get for advocating for the kids we love, I guess. In Spanish, they say, “Tiene doctorado pero no es educado.” This means, roughly, he has a doctorate but he isn’t educated. In Spanish, being educated means not simply sitting through some classes, but rather behaving well. King’s been to Harvard but treats the people he ostensibly serves with a sorely limited scope ranging from indifference to outright contempt.”

Just for the record, I said that King was “brilliant” based on his remarkable ability to earn simultaneous degrees from Harvard Law School and a doctorate from Teachers College, while apparently working at an Uncommon Schools charter in Massachusetts. Maybe I should have said “astonishing,” “amazing,” or “incredible.”

The fact is that John King managed to antagonize more parents and educators than any of his predecessors. He moved fast and furiously and created a tidal wave of opposition. He was widely viewed as arrogant and hostile to those he was hired to serve. There was no question he believed in his mission of testing and rating; he did not think that listening was part of his job.

The New York State United Teachers, which represents all public school teachers in New York, clashed repeatedly with John King when he was state commissioner. So did parents. So did superintendents. He was one of the most divisive state superintendents in the state’s history.

NYSUT urges its members to let the White House know what they think of the President’s selection of John King as Interim Acting Secretary of Education.
“New York State United Teachers is disappointed in John King’s appointment as acting U.S. Secretary of Education. NYSUT has always considered John King an ideologue with whom we disagreed sharply on many issues during his tenure as the state’s Education Department commissioner. Just last year, our members delivered a vote of no confidence against him and called for his resignation. NYSUT urges its members to call the White House switchboard at 202-456-1414 — as well as a special White House telephone line dedicated to public comments at 202-456-1111 — to express their displeasure in John King’s appointment.”

The U.S. will hear a case this fall that will determine the future of labor unions. Pro-business groups have fought the very idea of labor unions and collective bargaining for more than a century. Yet no institution in our society has done more to improve working conditions and to lift poor people into the middle class than labor unions.

Here is a straightforward explanation of the significance of this case by the BATS.

“If Friedrichs successfully overturns Abood and removes “agency shop” fees many surmise it will destroy labor unions in the country. Exposure of the real intent of the Friedrichs case is necessary because the political nature of this case is alarming; not just because of its ability to destroy labor unions but because of the nature of the deception.

“The Center for Individual Rights is the firm that is representing Friedrichs, the 9 other teachers and The Christian Educators Association International.

“The largest donor to CIR are the Koch Brothers ($40,000) .”

Here is the latest from politico:

“COMING THIS FALL TO A SCOTUS NEAR YOU: The fall term’s most consequential case for organized labor, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, will give the high court an opportunity to free public employees from their legal obligation to pay bargaining fees to a union. That obligation was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1977’s Abood v. Detroit Board of Education . If the court overruled Abood, it would impose a right-to-work regime on the country’s still-robust public sector unions. Freeing non-members from having to pay fees would create a free-rider problem wherein workers could benefit from union contracts without having to compensate the people who negotiated them on their behalf. If too many workers chose that route, unions like AFSCME and SEIU would have to scale back dramatically their bargaining and other activities. Even if the court didn’t go that far, it could still impose heavy financial burdens on public sector unions. The petitioners in the case asked the court, as an alternative to overruling Abood , to require non-members to opt in to paying fees for union political activity, replacing the opt-out regime under current law. Associate Justice Samuel Alito, in particular, appears to be itching to overrule Abood. More from Pro Labor & Employment’s Brian Mahoney:

“- Jacob Rukeyser, staff counsel for the California Teachers Association, said no matter what happens with the case, the assault on teachers unions will continue. The education reform movement wants to “deprofessionalize” the education profession, he said. “Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules, there will be continuing attacks on teachers unions, public sector unions and the labor movement as a whole,” he said. “Our opponents are very well-funded and unrelenting … we’re prepared for that. We expect this assault on working men and women will continue … The end result is just one of marginalizing and silencing the professional voice of our teachers.”


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