News from EPI Friedrichs decision is a win for workers, albeit a temporary one

The Supreme Court’s 4-4 split decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which was issued today, upholds a lower court decision that permits public employee unions to assess fees on non-members who benefit from collective bargaining and union representation. The decision is a victory for working people, whose rights are protected by strong unions even if they themselves are not in a union. It is also a reminder about the importance of the president’s choice of the next Supreme Court justice, since the 4-4 split guarantees that another case attacking union security agreements will find its way to the Court before long.

It is profoundly undemocratic to elevate the objections of a minority over the democratically determined choices of the majority of workers, not to mention that banning agency fees simply protects people who want to get something for nothing—people who can fairly be called free riders, or freeloaders.

Unions depend on dues from members to be effective, as well as on fees from the non-members they are required to represent. Unions bargain for the right to require that every employee who gets the benefit of the union contract and the union’s grievance procedure pays his or her fair share of the costs of that contract. Union members vote democratically whether to ratify the contract, and just like in political elections, a minority should be required to live with the majority’s choices.

Anywhere else in society it would be considered outrageous to get the benefits of a common enterprise without paying one’s fair share. No one would defend someone who joined a condo association and enjoyed the benefits of its landscaping, maintenance, and security without paying the condo fees.

Republicans in the Senate have made it clear that they will refuse to confirm Judge Garland. In that case, the next president’s Supreme Court appointee will probably cast the deciding vote on this issue when the next case comes before the court. That vote will determine the future of effective unions, democratic decision making in the workplace, and the preservation of good, middle-class jobs in public employment.

See more work by Ross Eisenbrey