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Labor Praises Supreme Court Ruling On ‘Friedrichs’ And Offer A Warning For The Future

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

Today, the assault on working families came to an abrupt halt as we received news that the Supreme Court could not come to a decision in the Friedrichs v California Teachers Association. The court ended in a 4-4 tie. This means that the California Supreme Court decision to uphold agency fees will stand.

After the decision labor groups across the country rejoiced and applauded the decision that could have made it illegal to charge non union member an agency fee, essential pushing Right To Work nationwide without legislative approval.

“Today, working people have persevered in the face of another attack on our rights,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “All over the country working people are showing that we won’t allow wealthy special interests or their politicians to stand in our way to join collectively and make workplaces better all across America. In the face of these attacks we are more committed than ever to ensuring that everyone has the right to speak up together for a better life.”

“At the Supreme Court today, working people won a huge victory,” wrote Rudy Lopez, Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice. “Fighting back against powerful anti-worker interests that spent millions of dollars and many years to manufacture a Supreme Court challenge of collective bargaining, workers stuck together and prevailed, defending the right of unions to collect dues to all who benefit from its membership.”

“But while today’s victory is a milestone for working people and their right to collectively bargain, the fight for worker justice is far from over,” added Lopez. “The Freidrichs case was a carefully planned campaign to break unions and decentralize worker power and the wealthy interests behind it are not going to simply give up because they lost today.”

“Today’s Friedrichs decision by the Supreme Court was a big win for anyone who believes in the promise of America,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “Unions are about giving workers and their families a voice on the job and a fair shot to get ahead, and today’s decision enables those aspirations. And as the Center for Individual Rights’ legal maneuver this afternoon suggests, this decision, affirming four decades of precedent, was a blow to the right-wing special interests who are trying to rig the economy and our democracy in their own favor.”

“It’s no surprise that the Center for Individual Rights is continuing its assault on working people and the unions that represent them. By refusing to accept the court’s ruling and petitioning for a rehearing, they expose their agenda for what it is—a brazen political assault on working people. This Koch-backed think tank plotted to fast-track this case to the Supreme Court, and we know the wealthy few behind these efforts will continue doing everything they can to undermine the voice of working people in America,” added Weingarten.

Public sector workers will continue to benefit from the collective voice of union representation under a decision by the Supreme Court today that affirms nearly 40 years of constitutional law, the head of the largest federal employee union said today.

“The Supreme Court has kept in place a 1977 ruling that ensures public sector employee unions will be able to continue fighting for better pay, benefits, and working conditions for all represented workers, whether or not they choose to join the union,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

“When the union negotiates a contract for workers, everyone who’s covered by that contract takes home higher pay and benefits, has greater job security, enjoys improved health and safety standards, and gets help in settling workplace disputes. It is only fair that all employees share in the cost of securing those benefits,” added Cox.

“A decision by the Supreme Court to overturn its 1977 ruling would have made it grossly unfair to place the burden of paying for the level of representation that all employees need and deserve on only some public employees as opposed to asking each to pay a fair share,” concluded Cox.

“Today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association case safeguards, at least for now, the right of public workers to engage in meaningful collective bargaining,” wrote the Communication Workers of America.

CWA highlighted the connection between Friedrichs and the union busting, anti-worker firms that have been pushing Right to Work in states all across the country.

“The case had been financed by anti-worker and corporate education supporters who have been working for years to stifle the voices of teachers and other public workers and weaken their collective bargaining rights. It clearly shows how extreme the right-wing assault on workers and their right to bargain, whether public or private sector, has become,” stated CWA.

For many years now CWA has been on the front lines fighting to end the obstructionism in Washington, specifically the US Senate. They used the considerable influence and membership to help secure five members to the National Labor Relations Board as well as worked to change the “filibuster rule” that Senate Republicans used to block every major Presidential nominee in the past few years.

Now they are calling out the Senate and the same right-wing, anti-worker organizations that are holding up hearings to replace Justice Scalia in the Supreme Court.

“These same right-wing interests want to block any consideration of President Obama’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s time for senators to do their job and take up the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, not continue the “politics as usual” that ignores the voice of the American people,” CWA said.

There is no doubt this decision will have an impact on the upcoming elections as Republicans in the Senate are continuing to refuse to even meet with Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court’s 4-4 decision on the Friedrichs case is no doubt an important win for organized labor,” said International Union of Painters and Allied Trades General President Kenneth Rigmaiden.  “However, it should also serve as a significant wake up call for working families who are not convinced that their vote in the political process matters in this upcoming election.”

“Anti-union special interests succeeded in bringing their tactics to the Supreme Court in an effort to stop workers from deciding their collective fate on the job by a vote.  We won this one, but the fight is far from over.  It is time to get to work on putting pro-union candidates in local, state and federal offices.  The leaders we successfully fight for on the campaign trail will be our line of defense in Washington to keep our unions strong,” added Rigmaiden.

As Republicans continue to obstruct filling the vacant seat in the Supreme Court, this election is proving to be the most important in history. This election could be the difference between a progressive Justice like Merrick Garland or another right-wing ideolog like Justice Scalia. As more and more attacks to our collective bargaining rights make it to the Supreme Court confirming a nominee that will uphold our rights is of the utmost importance.

Unions Push Right To Work Off The Table In Kentucky

rtw logoBy BERRY CRAIG
AFT Local 1360
 

Think voting really doesn’t matter? Talk to a pair of Kentucky labor leaders.

Because union-endorsed candidates won three of four special House elections this month, “right to work” is dead for now in the General Assembly, said Bluegrass State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan and Bill Finn, Kentucky State Building and Construction Trades Council director.

State Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, announced Friday that the “Kentucky Right to Work Act,” Senate Bill-3, “is off the table this session,” Finn added. “The sole reason was the Democrats holding on to a majority in the state House, which the Democrats now control 53-47.”

Stivers also pulled Senate Bill-6, so-called tort reform. “It is rare for the proponents of such bills to kill their own bills and it is even rarer for the president of the Senate to credit their deaths to the one factor that we all know has been holding back the onslaught of anti-worker legislation: Democrat-control of the Kentucky House,” Londrigan said.

Unions were a big reason Democrats still have the legislature’s lower chamber, according to House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

“I don’t think you can overstate just how important organized labor was in the special elections,” he said. “They gave us a strong foundation to work from, and they were crucial for our ground game.”

RTW was very much alive last fall. Tea party Republican Matt Bevin was elected governor on a RTW platform, leaving the Democratic-majority House of Representatives as the only barrier between the Bluegrass State and RTW. The state Senate has a 27-11 pro-RTW Republican majority.

The Democrats’ 54-46 House margin shrunk by four when a pair of Democratic lawmakers switched to the Republicans and two more took posts elsewhere in state government.

The GOP hoped to run the table in the four special elections, thereby making the House 50-50. (Two Republicans had to leave after winning constitutional offices in November.)

A GOP sweep—or even wins in three of the races—would have given the Republicans significant momentum going into this fall’s elections.

Now Old Mo seems to be with the Democrats. 

Stivers filed SB-3 on Jan. 6. “SB-3 was sent to the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee on January 7 where it lay pending the outcome of the House special elections on March 8,” Finn explained.

He added, “there could not be a clearer picture for our members…that their vote matters than President Stivers’ admission that a Republican majority in the House would have passed SB-3.”

Click here to see Stivers’ surrender on SB-3.

“President Stivers stated clearly that ‘elections have consequences’ and the consequences of the failure of the Republicans to win all four special elections and tie for control of the Kentucky House is the death of RTW and tort reform–as well as the previous death of prevailing wage repeal in the House Labor and Industry Committee–and so many other terrible pieces of legislation the Republicans had ready if they won those four critical seats,” Londrigan said.

Londrigan added that the special elections again prove that all elections matter. “In this case, the consequences were sufficiently positive to maintain control of the Kentucky House.”

But he cautioned against “resting on our laurels. We are heading right back into a full blown effort by our opponents to ‘flip the house’ – a mantra the Republicans have been using for about the past six years.

“We have prevented them from doing so this time, and only by an enormous and united effort will we be able to do so this November. The consequences of failure can be understood by simply looking at our neighboring states of Indiana and West Virginia.” Both states became RTW states, West Virginia most recently.

“The wolf is at the door again,” Londrigan warned. “The question is will we in the Kentucky trade union movement have the strength and courage to keep the wolf at bay and prevent Bevin and company from turning back the clock even further on Kentucky’s hard-working men and women.”

Londrigan thanked “all of those who worked so diligently and effectively in the four special elections. Our opponents thought they had all four of them won. Our labor program and grassroots and workplace efforts won these elections and the hard work and dedication of so many union members, representatives, released staff and national staff gave the Kentucky labor movement a great win and a chance to win again in November.”

Finn is also grateful to union members—especially those who pack building trades cards—for their work in the special elections. “This is more proof that organized labor’s effort can change the directions of Kentucky.”

Kentucky is the South’s only non-RTW state. The Kentucky House is the only chamber in a Southern legislature with a Democratic majority.

A New Hampshire Republican Tries To Sneak In A New Kind Right To Work For Less Bill

The proposed bill puts a new twist on an old, well known union busting Right to Work law

Right To Work is Wrong for NH

Tomorrow, the NH House Labor Committee will hold their public hearing on HB 1341 a new and very sneaky way to pass a Right To Work for less bill.

Republican Representative John Martin introduced HB1341 as a way for non-union members, who are covered by a union contract, to get out of paying their fair share by allowing them to make a donation to the charity of their choice.  This would allow the non-members to freeload off the union by skipping out on their share of the administration costs.

This is exactly the same as every other Right to Work for less bill except in this version non-members would still have to pay, they just would not have to pay the union.

Right to Work is a union-busting tactic has been used for decades. Bust the union by attempting to bankrupt them.

We already know that Right to Work laws are designed to destroy unions and further the Race to the Bottom.  Workers in Right to Work states make about 3% less than workers in free bargaining states. This means workers will make on average, $1500 less in Right to Work states.  Workers are also much less likely to have access to healthcare, retirement plans and other negotiated benefits like family leave and paid sick time.

This piece of legislation could allow these freeloading non-members to take money that should have gone to the union and funnel it directly into anti-worker groups like the Americans for Prosperity, who are officially listed at a charity by the state.

Passing Right To Work has been one of AFP-NH’s main legislative goals for many years.

Did the Americans for Prosperity have a hand in writing this bill? I do not know, but I am pretty certain they will be there to support it.

If you agree that this type of underhanded attack on workers is wrong then join us at the NH State Capitol’s Legislative Office Building, Room 307, tomorrow (2-11-16) to make your voice heard.

If you cannot make it to the State House tomorrow, you can write or call the members of the House Labor Comittee (click here to email the committee) and tell them to vote this bill “INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE” to kill the bill.

Union-Busters Cry “State Sovereignty” As Judge Overturns Right To Work Ordinance

Anti-union group raises ‘state sovereignty’ cry over judge’s ruling against county ‘right to work’ ordinances in Kentucky   

By BERRY CRAIG
AFT Local 1360

Right to work is wrong for KentuckyPredictably, the union-busters are in high dudgeon over Federal District Judge David Hale’s ruling that, in effect, invalidated a dozen county “right to work” ordinances in Kentucky.

One of those conservative, anti-union groups griped that the ruling “not only pushes aside the will of the people as expressed through their Legislature, it completely negates the intention of this nation’s founders in establishing a Constitution that empowers sovereign states and their citizens.”

“Will of the people expressed through their Legislature?”— In 2014, a slew of Republicans running for the state House of Representatives made RTW a central issue in their campaigns. They promised to vote in a RTW law if they flipped the Democratic-majority House. (The Senate is Republican).

I can’t think of a better example of “the will of the people” than an election.

Well, the Democrats went into the 2014 election with a 54-46 House majority. After the votes were counted, the House was still 54-46 Democratic.

“A Constitution that empowers sovereign states and their citizens?” – The U.S. constitution does indeed grant states important powers. But the United States is a federal republic. The constitution has a supremacy clause (Article VI, Clause 2) that says: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”

In other words, federal law trumps state or local law. Ultimate sovereignty lies with the central government, an issue the Civil War settled.

I wouldn’t for a minute accuse this anti-union group of being pro-slavery or pro-segregation. But before the Civil War, white supremacist Southern politicians, editors and other leaders said slavery was legal in their states under a national constitution that empowered “sovereign states” and their citizens, meaning white folks. 

Likewise, Southern white supremacist supporters of Jim Crow laws—which denied the vote to African Americans and created a system of racial apartheid throughout the old Confederacy—trotted out the “sovereign states” line.

Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Says Judge’s Ruling Against County Right To Work Ordinance A Victory For Kentucky’s Working Families

“These illegal ordinances would have affected all working people, union and non-union, by decreasing wages, lowering median household incomes, increasing poverty and undermining workplace safety” 

By BERRY CRAIG
AFT Local 1360

Bill Londrigan

Bill Londrigan

Federal District Judge David Hale’s decision striking down Hardin County’s “right to work” ordinances was a victory for Kentucky’s working families, says Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO.

“These illegal ordinances would have affected all working people, union and non-union, by decreasing wages, lowering median household incomes, increasing poverty and undermining workplace safety,” he added. 

In short, these ordinances are wrong,” he added. “The courts rejected out-of-state special interests’ attempt to take over local governments by pushing a radical outside agenda.”

In January, 2015, nine unions filed suit against Hardin County’s RTW ordinance, arguing that federal labor law permits only states and territories to pass RTW laws. Eleven other counties approved similar ordinances and Hale’s ruling, in effect, invalidates them, too. 

Both sides stated their cases before Hale in Louisville in August, 2015. He ruled in favor of the unions on Feb. 3.

“We would like to thank all of the working families and elected officials that fought hard against these illegal ordinances,” Londrigan said. “The Kentucky AFL-CIO and hardworking Kentuckians will continue to fight for fair wages, more good jobs and more investment in education – and fight hard against unfair, illegal and unnecessary legislation.

“It is unfortunate that out-of-state special interests wasted taxpayers’ money with these attacks on Kentucky workers by pushing a radical out-of-state agenda. Our mission is to improve the lives of all working Kentuckians and raise the standard of living for all Kentuckians. We salute the working people of Hardin County for taking a stand against out-of-state corporate interests.”

The pro-RTW Americans for Prosperity Kentucky contributed a $50,000 grant to a legal defense fund for counties that faced legal action for passing RTW ordinances, according to Kevin Wheatley of cn/2 Pure Politics.

Buddy Cutler

Buddy Cutler

Buddy Cutler of Louisville, attorney for the unions, said Hale’s opinion was solid, well-reasoned and followed established law. “It is a victory for working people that honors Congress’ intent and implements the wise federal labor policy that companies and unions should be free to negotiate contracts without undue interference from local officials.”

Hale said the National Labor Relations Act “preempts the right-to-work, hiring-hall, and dues-checkoff provisions of Hardin County Ordinance 300.” He also ruled that “Section 14(b) is the only exception to NLRA preemption of the field of labor relations, and it does not extend to counties or municipalities. Because Ordinance 300 does not fall under § 14(b)’s narrow exception, sections 4, 5, and 6 of the ordinance are preempted and thus invalid.”

Workers In Right To Work States Are Less Likely To Have Access To Retirement Plans

Pew Analysis Shows Access to Workplace Retirement Plans
Varies Widely Across States

Big differences among industries, incomes, ages, education, race and ethnicities

Wide differences in access to and participation in employer-based retirement plans exist across states, with variations by employer size and industry type as well as by workers’ income, age, education, race and ethnicity, according to a report released today by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The report, Who’s In, Who’s Out: A Look at Access to Employer-Based Retirement Plans and Participation in the States, examines the rates of access to and participation in plans in all 50 states and assesses the challenges facing workers and employers in ensuring that Americans have sufficient resources to pay for their retirements.

Access and participation is higher in the Midwest, New England, and parts of the Pacific Northwest—and lower in the South and West. The report also finds that among Hispanic workers, access to a plan is around 25 percentage points below that for white non-Hispanic workers. Black and Asian workers also report lower rates of access than white workers.     

“Access to workplace retirement plans varies widely across the states,” said John Scott, director of Pew’s retirement savings project. “Recognizing the savings challenge faced by so many Americans, half of the states are looking at their own solutions.” 

There is a correlation between traditionally strong union states and access to retirement plans.  Workers in Right To Work (for less) states generally have much less access to retirement plans or pensions.

Below is an chart from the report that shows the percentage of workers who has access to some type of retirement plan.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 11.45.19 AMBelow is the current map of Pro-Labor / Right To Work states.  Notice that the overwhelming majority of Right To Work states have drastically less access to retirement plans. (Note: Wisconsin became a RTW state in March of 2015, Michigan in March of 2013, and Indiana in February of 2012.)

righttowork_uschart2015

Overall, Pew’s analysis, based on a pooled version of the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS), found that 58 percent of private sector workers have access to a plan, while 49 percent participate in one. Pew also found that more than 30 million full-time, full-year, private sector workers ages 18 to 64 lack access to an employer-based retirement plan, whether a traditional pension or a defined contribution plan such as a 401(k).

The report notes the numerous efforts at the state and federal levels to increase retirement savings. Illinois, for instance, adopted the Secure Choice Savings Program in 2015, which will start enrolling certain private sector workers in new payroll-deduction retirement accounts by 2017. In another example, the state of Washington created a marketplace in which small employers and the self-employed can shop for retirement plans. In addition, the federal government has rolled out the “myRA,” a new national savings program that is geared toward low-income savers. 

“Workplace retirement savings plans can be a critical piece of the retirement security puzzle,” said Scott. “But for millions of Americans, this piece is missing.”

The collective bargaining process has long been the key to ensuring a fair wage and access to retirement. As union membership declines we are continuing to see a reduction in our wages and access to benefits including retirement plans.  


More detailed information, including state-by-state breakdowns, is available in the report’s online interactive data visualization at www.pewtrusts.org/retirementaccess. 

Click here to download the full report.

Workers In Right To Work States Are Less Likely To Have Access To Retirement Plans

Pew Analysis Shows Access to Workplace Retirement Plans
Varies Widely Across States

Big differences among industries, incomes, ages, education, race and ethnicities

Wide differences in access to and participation in employer-based retirement plans exist across states, with variations by employer size and industry type as well as by workers’ income, age, education, race and ethnicity, according to a report released today by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The report, Who’s In, Who’s Out: A Look at Access to Employer-Based Retirement Plans and Participation in the States, examines the rates of access to and participation in plans in all 50 states and assesses the challenges facing workers and employers in ensuring that Americans have sufficient resources to pay for their retirements.

Access and participation is higher in the Midwest, New England, and parts of the Pacific Northwest—and lower in the South and West. The report also finds that among Hispanic workers, access to a plan is around 25 percentage points below that for white non-Hispanic workers. Black and Asian workers also report lower rates of access than white workers.     

“Access to workplace retirement plans varies widely across the states,” said John Scott, director of Pew’s retirement savings project. “Recognizing the savings challenge faced by so many Americans, half of the states are looking at their own solutions.” 

There is a correlation between traditionally strong union states and access to retirement plans.  Workers in Right To Work (for less) states generally have much less access to retirement plans or pensions.

Below is an chart from the report that shows the percentage of workers who has access to some type of retirement plan.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 11.45.19 AMBelow is the current map of Pro-Labor / Right To Work states.  Notice that the overwhelming majority of Right To Work states have drastically less access to retirement plans. (Note: Wisconsin became a RTW state in March of 2015, Michigan in March of 2013, and Indiana in February of 2012.)

righttowork_uschart2015

Overall, Pew’s analysis, based on a pooled version of the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS), found that 58 percent of private sector workers have access to a plan, while 49 percent participate in one. Pew also found that more than 30 million full-time, full-year, private sector workers ages 18 to 64 lack access to an employer-based retirement plan, whether a traditional pension or a defined contribution plan such as a 401(k).

The report notes the numerous efforts at the state and federal levels to increase retirement savings. Illinois, for instance, adopted the Secure Choice Savings Program in 2015, which will start enrolling certain private sector workers in new payroll-deduction retirement accounts by 2017. In another example, the state of Washington created a marketplace in which small employers and the self-employed can shop for retirement plans. In addition, the federal government has rolled out the “myRA,” a new national savings program that is geared toward low-income savers. 

“Workplace retirement savings plans can be a critical piece of the retirement security puzzle,” said Scott. “But for millions of Americans, this piece is missing.”

The collective bargaining process has long been the key to ensuring a fair wage and access to retirement. As union membership declines we are continuing to see a reduction in our wages and access to benefits including retirement plans.  


More detailed information, including state-by-state breakdowns, is available in the report’s online interactive data visualization at www.pewtrusts.org/retirementaccess. 

Click here to download the full report.

LiUNA Says Friedrichs vs CTA Is A Direct Assault On Collective Bargaining Rights

LIUNA - The Laborers' International Union of North America

LIUNA – The Laborers’ International Union of North America

This suit is a direct assault on the collective bargaining rights that have enabled generations of workers to organize for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.” 

Washington, DC – Terry O’Sullivan, General President of LIUNA (the Laborers’ International Union of North America) today made the following statement regarding the oral arguments in the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case:

Monday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Friedrichs case, which will affect not only workers in the public sector, but the entire labor movement.  The anti-union, anti-worker billionaires backing this suit are trying to destroy unions and make it impossible for working people to come together, speak up for each other, and bargain collectively.  An anti-union decision in the Friedrichs case would do far more than upend 40 years of legal precedent; it would put prosperity and the American dream further out of reach for millions of hard working men and women.  Make no mistake: this suit is a direct assault on the collective bargaining rights that have enabled generations of workers to organize for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.

As the proud representative of tens of thousands of dedicated, hard-working public employees, LIUNA stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters throughout the public sector as they face the Friedrich case’s assault on their fundamental rights. 

The very fact that an adverse decision in a single Supreme Court case could have such a devastating impact on millions of working men and women highlights the importance of the 2016 Presidential election.  Supreme Court appointees are a President’s longest lasting legacy, making critical decisions in cases that affect millions of people for decades after a President has left office.  With several spots on the Supreme Court expected to open up in the next few years, working men and women need someone in the White House who will appoint Justices ready to defend the right to organize.  That is why LIUNA has endorsed Hillary Clinton for President, and why we will work hard to help her win in November.  


The half-million members of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – are on the forefront of the construction industry, a powerhouse of workers who are proud to build America.

What the Case Against Union Dues Is Really About: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

photojpeg-2016-01-01-at-5-55-16-pm1-e1451949966541

Image by California Teachers Association

By Alan Shapiro for Unions Matter

On January 11, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that greatly concerns all union members working in the public sector, including teachers and other state and municipal workers. The case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, aims to overturn a Supreme Court ruling that has stood for nearly 40 years. In the important and unanimous 1977 decision Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Supreme Court upheld the right of public sector unions to collect “fair share” or “agency” fees from workers who choose not to join the union, because those workers benefit significantly from union representation.

The current lawsuit is viewed by many as an attack on unions, which it clearly is. As Jean Ross, co-president of the union National Nurses United, wrote:

“The intended effect is to essentially bankrupt public sector unions….The architects of this move are the management-linked groups, funded by some of the wealthiest corporate interests in the U.S., whose goal is to eliminate the ability of workers to have a voice in the workplace or limit the ability of corporations to put profits ahead of worker rights, workplace rights.”

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA) was filed in behalf of just ten teachers in California by the Center for Individual Rights (CIR), a right-wing law firm. Rebecca Friedrichs, the lead plaintiff in the case, said in the court declaration: “I object to many of the union’s public-policy positions, including positions that they have taken…in collective-bargaining.” And Terry Pell, president of the CIR, said that the case “is about the right of individuals to decide for themselves whether to join and pay dues….We are seeking the end of compulsory union dues….”

These arguments are simply untrue and misleading. First of all, these teachers already have the right not to join the union or pay union dues. However, in keeping with the Abood decision, those who don’t join are still required to pay “fair-share” fees for the benefits they receive through the union. It should be noted that under current law teachers who opt out of union membership are not required to fund any political activity. It’s important also to acknowledge that one of the “positions” unions have taken in collective bargaining is that every worker deserves fair compensation. A person’s not liking certain “positions” taken by the U.S. government does not annul that person’s obligation to pay their fair share of income taxes.

         What Motivates This Case?

 As a proud member of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) for nearly thirty years, I want teachers and other union members everywhere to know what Aesthetic Realism, founded by Eli Siegel, explains about our profit-driven economy and unions. It is knowledge that can have all my union brothers and sisters clearer and more equipped to combat the vicious battering union members have been forced to endure. Like other attacks on public sector unions in recent years, this case is part of a huge ethical battle going on in economics. Aesthetic Realism explains that it is like the battle that goes on in every person between contempt—the feeling we will be more by making less of something else, and respect—our desire to be just to the world, including other people.

       The Ethics Unions Represent    

At their basis, unions stand for respect and justice: men and women joining together so that they all can get what they deserve in return for their labor. This purpose is ethical

and kind And it’s completely opposed to the purpose of our profit-driven economy, which is based on contempt: seeing people as existing to make some few individuals wealthy while paying those who do the work as little as possible.

I’m grateful to my union because the UFT—like the CTA—fought hard and steadily for salary increases, pensions, health care, safe working conditions, paid sick leave, and fair grievance procedures. And the union protects these hard-won rights and benefits for all employees covered by the binding contracts they negotiate—union members and non-members alike. The teachers represented in this lawsuit are ungrateful, because they enjoy the benefits that the union fought for and won, and their desire not to pay their fair share should not become the law of the land.

      Our Economy Today

Beginning in 1970, Eli Siegel showed that profit economics could no longer work efficiently. In a series of historic lectures titled Goodbye Profit System, he gave abundant evidence for this failure—centrally the success of unions. Every pay raise, benefit, and safety regulation won by unions cuts into profits.

That is why for decades there has been a massive attempt by corporate America and a number of politicians to destroy unions—which is clearly the purpose of this lawsuit. After successfully weakening private sector unions, including through the passage of “right-to-work laws,” they are now going after public sector unions, trying to convince people (including union members themselves) that unions are the cause of America’s huge fiscal turmoil.

The situation we have today is commented on centrally by Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education. In the periodical The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, she writes:

“What the American people need to be told clearly is who, or what, is really to blame for America’s economic suffering, job losses, government deficits. They’re being told unions are to blame, because unions have been able to negotiate for their members some of what all people deserve, including pensions and health care. If unions thrive, all Americans can have these, and more. Unions stand for all of us. The cause of our economic trouble is 1) the persons who are using, and want to continue using, America and her workforce for their own private profits; and 2) governments’ funding those persons and their businesses, with the people’s money—through tax breaks, subsidies, and outsourcing public work to private companies.”

The practical alternative—and the only thing that will now work—is an economy based on ethics, on honestly answering this essential question, first asked by Eli Siegel: “What does a person deserve by being alive?” This can be the beginning of having an economy that is fair at last to every man, woman, and child in these United States.


Alan Shapiro is a jazz pianist who performs with the Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company. For 28 years he was a music teacher and choral director in the New York City public schools.  He is a proud member of the United Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Musicians (Local 802).

Wisconsin Loses 10,000 More Jobs After Passing Right To Work

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is in deep trouble as his state is losing jobs at record rates.  Last year Walker promised that if the they passed Right To Work they would create tens of thousands of new jobs, once again proving that Right to Work is not a job creator.

Gov. Walker’s administration quietly acknowledged over the busy holiday season that Wisconsin surpassed 10,000 layoffs last year as a result of plant closings and economic challenges. The dismal news confirms that 2015 was Wisconsin’s worst year for job losses since Gov. Walker took office – far exceeding the 6,186 workers affected by mass layoffs and plant closings in 2014. The dramatic spike in layoffs have surprised many given the strong economic growth in neighboring Midwestern states.

“I’m concerned these mass layoffs aren’t setting off any alarm bells among Republican leaders in our state,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse). “We are in the midst of an economic crisis. Wisconsin is hemorrhaging jobs at a rate we haven’t seen since the Great Recession and our middle class is shrinking faster than any other state in the nation. Thousands of families are struggling to find a job because the policies being pushed by Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans simply aren’t working.”

Instead of focusing on economic development, Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans have prioritized bills to dismantle the Government Accountability Board, limit investigations of political corruption and increase special interest campaign influence. Additionally, deep budget cuts to local schools, public infrastructure and economic development programs have resulted in widespread layoffs and contributed to Wisconsin’s poor economic climate.

“We need to get serious about turning things around and expanding economic opportunities in our state,” added Shilling. “From early childhood education and student loan debt relief to strengthening retirement security and investing in infrastructure, Senate Democrats continue to call for action to help hardworking Wisconsin families. Rather than addressing these challenges, Republican leaders have allowed Gov. Walker’s presidential campaign and special interest groups to drive their political agenda. With more layoffs on the horizon, I hope that we can recognize the gravity of this situation and begin to turn things around in Wisconsin.”

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