Fact sheet: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

          Agency fees explained! View AFSCME's video - "Union Fair Share Fees Explained"

          Q: What is Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association?

          A: Friedrichs is a lawsuit filed by The Center for Individual Rights on
          behalf of 10 California teachers and the Christian Educators Association International, an organization dedicated to "encourage, equip, and
          empower educators according to Biblical principles."
          The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case during its current term,
          which began in October 2015. A ruling is expected in 2016.

          Q: What is the case about?

          A: The case challenges the right of public sector unions to collect fees
          —referred to as “agency fees” in New York—from anyone who benefits from collective bargaining. Friedrichs questions the constitutionality of the concept of “fair share”—that everyone who enjoys benefits and protections of a negotiated contract should pay their fair share of the cost for that work.

          Q: Is there more to the story?

          A: Much more. Friedrichs is the latest attempt by corporate CEOs and wealthy special interest groups aligned with union-busting billionaires such as the Koch Brothers to break public sector unions nationwide. The intent is to bankrupt unions by blocking their ability to collect agency fees, a major source of revenue. And that could happen if the Supreme Court rules for Friedrichs.

          Strengthening and growing membership are the only ways UUP and other public sector unions can ensure they won’t be weakened by the court’s ruling.

          Q: What is The Center for Individual Rights?

          A: Formed in 1989, the Center for Individual Rights is a Washington, D.C.-based, right-wing organization that has focused its well-bankrolled resources on challenging the Affordable Care Act, among other initiatives.

          CIR is funded by a number of wealthy conservative foundations, including those affiliated with the Koch Brothers. The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, John M. Olin Foundation, F.M. Kirby Foundation, Sarah Scaife Foundation, and the Carthage Foundation have all contributed more than $1 million.

          The lead counsel on the Friedrichs case is Michael Carvin. Among other cases, Carvin argued King v. Burwell and also the 2012 challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

          Q: I'm still unclear about the details regarding agency fees and fair share.

          A: Here's how it all works:

          Unions negotiate significant benefits for workers — on average, unionized workers’ wages are 27 percent higher than their nonunion counterparts, according to the AFL-CIO. Unionized workers are 60 percent more likely to have employer-provided pensions, and more than 79 percent of union workers have jobs with health insurance benefits. Unions also provide job protections and give workers a say in improving their jobs.

          But unions are also required by law to bargain for all workers in their collective bargaining units, regardless of whether workers join the union. This creates "free riders"—people who receive the benefits of being in a union without paying for them. With too many free riders, many unions would eventually run out of funds and fold. If that happens, workers would lose all the benefits negotiated by the union.

          Agency fees level the playing field. Thanks to Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, a landmark 1977 Supreme Court decision, workers who do not join their union must pay their share of collective bargaining costs. Fee payers contribute only toward the services that benefit them—such as higher salaries, health benefits, representation in disciplinary proceedings, job security and job protections.

          Q: So, are fee payers required to join a union?

          A: Absolutely NOT. The law DOES NOT require fee payers to be union members. NO ONE can be forced to join a union or contribute dues to pay for political activities.

          Q: But I heard that unions routinely spent dues on political activities.

          A: That is a LIE. Not one dime of dues is — or can be — spent on political activities. It is ILLEGAL in New York for unions to collect and use union dues to support candidates or other political activities. Instead, unions collect voluntary donations for political action funds, like NYSUT’s VOTE-COPE nonpartisan fund.

          Q: So the allegations in Friedrichs that it's unconstitutional for unions to collect agency fees are wrong?

          A: Correct. Fee payers only pay for services that benefit them—like salary increases, health benefits, job security and job protections. This is how the law protects the free speech and constitutional rights of those who decide not to join the union for political and other reasons.

          For more information, please contact UUP at 1-800-342-4206.

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