The end result is in reach for those conservatives who have worked so hard to destroy public sector unions and along with them, the rest of the middle class.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association about the legality of public unions charging people who don’t want to join them an agency fee that amounts to almost a full dues payment. The teachers who brought the case are arguing that everything public sector unions do is political since they use public taxpayer money for their contracts. And since, in their view, everything is political, the plaintiffs say that their first amendment rights are being violated because they’re being forced to support an entity, the union, that they don’t agree with.
The controlling opinion on this issue is a 1977 decision in the Abood case in Detroit. Back when the Supreme Court had conservatives who saw the value of unions, the court said that agency fees were constitutional. From the article:
In 1977’s Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which established the constitutional principle at stake in Friedrichs, Justice Potter Stewart acknowledged that compelling someone to support their bargaining units may affect their First Amendment rights. He listed several instances of employees disagreeing with the views of their union — on abortion, race relations, even unionism itself. But ultimately, Stewart acknowledged that “such interference” with a person’s views is “constitutionally justified” so as to allow “the important contribution of the union shop to the system of labor relations established by Congress.”
It seems almost quaint, the idea that the union movement is important. That’s what 30+ years of unrelenting opposition and hostility to worker’s rights and decent wages will do to a country.
What’s even more interesting and sad in a way, is the argument from the teachers (yes, teachers) who brought this case. Not everything a public union does is political. And any union or agency employee has the absolute right to speak out, to suggest ideas and to protest what they believe to be unfair actions that the union takes. Further, the union negotiates salary, benefits and working conditions for every employee, whether they are union members or not. If the fees were struck down, then many members would be benefiting from negotiations for free.
It gets even better. Harlan Elrich, one of the teachers in the case, wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed,
“That the union would presume to push, allegedly on my behalf, for higher salaries at the expense of smaller class sizes and avoiding teacher layoffs is preposterous”
He’s also quoted in the New York Times as saying,
“I can negotiate for myself. I’m a good teacher, highly respected, and I can go anywhere.”
There are two terrifically dangerous assumptions at work here. The first is that we have a teacher who doesn’t want the union to ask for higher salaries for all teachers. Mr. Elrich might be doing fine financially, but many other teachers – including those in New Jersey who are taking home less pay every year because of increasingly burdensome health insurance payments – are not doing as well and are falling behind or struggling just to maintain a middle class life after going to college and starting their lives.
The second problem is his assumption that he, or any teacher, would be better off negotiating his own salary and benefits. In fact, Mr. Erlich is contradicting himself mightily by accusing the union of negotiating salaries beyond the means of the town to pay them, and maintaining that he can negotiate perhaps a better salary on his own, with the money coming from the same taxpayer pockets. And if he wants to seriously negotiate smaller class sizes and avoid teacher layoffs, then he should join the union and push for those things rather than try to freeload and then complain.
Having teachers becoming free agents is exactly what the corporate conservatives want because, like me, they understand that teachers are not really in a good position when it comes to negotiating for themselves. The reason? Because the public respect teachers for the job they do for their children, but they also think teachers get paid too much for a 10 month job. Mr. Ehrlich is likely in for a rude awakening if he wins and then goes to his Superintendent or Business Administrator and is offered less money because of thousands of new college graduates willing to take his job at, I’m guessing, about $30,000 dollars less.
It is incumbent upon all teacher’s unions to spend the rest of this school year explaining to their members why it’s important to stick together, and to remind them what teaching life was like before the association movement. Justices Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Roberts would surely love for people to forget salaries that required second jobs and administrative fiats that subverted the dignity and respect that teachers deserve.
All might not be lost at the Court because we never really know what the Justices are thinking (remember the two Affordable Care Act cases and marriage equality), but this one will be close and we don’t have Potter Stewart to fight for the value of unions. But we do have ourselves. I hope that’s enough.
The reason was always obvious, but hearing Rachel Maddow explain why Republicans hate unions put a level of simplicity to the topic that anyone and everyone should get… even Republicans.
(CBS News) FORT LUPTON, Colo. – Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Wednesday said he unequivocally opposes “marriage between people of the same gender,” drawing a contrast to President Obama’s “evolving” position on the issue.
In an interview with Denver-based KDVR-TV, Romney was asked about the failure of a ballot measure that would have allowed same-sex civil unions in Colorado. “I indicated my view, which is I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name,” Romney said. “My view is the domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights, and the like are appropriate but that the others are not.”
Romney, in another interview Wednesday, told CBS affiliate KCNC in Denver: “My position is the same on gay marriage as it’s been well, from the beginning, and that is that marriage is a relation between a man and a woman. That’s the posture that I had as governor and I have that today.”
However, it’s still early in the election season. Check back later to see if Romney’s position changes. Most likely, it will.
Last year when the so-called grassroots Teaparty started, multiple videos of them making threats against Liberals and Democrats began popping up online. The Teaparty however, tried unsuccessfully to maintain their civility towards the other side of the Political aisle, but the videos kept coming.
Well that was then. Today, The Teaparty is not even concerned about appearing violent. They openly praise Texas governor Rick Perry when he bragged about executing the most people in our nation’s history, and they applauded and called for the death of a person who has no health care insurance, but need extensive medical care.
And then this. Andrew Breitbart, a favorite Teaparty conservative media personality, addressed a Teaparty crowd and shared his innermost feelings towards Liberals and unions. Breitbart is heard saying, “we outnumber them in this country, and we have the guns.” After the audience began laughing, Breitbart exclaimed, “I’m not kidding!”
Elections have consequences, and the people of Wisconsin are dealing with the consequences of electing a Republican governor, along with Republican majorities in both the Wisconsin Senate and House Assembly. The mid-term election started the ball rolling, and it is culminating in massive rallies by the people of that state, demanding a recall of the governor, Mr. Scott Walker.
The governor however, along with his Republican majority in both chambers are choosing not to listen to the will of the people and are going forward with their plans to pass a bill geared towards taking away the power from the working Wisconsinite.
What’s all the fuss about? Unions
Unions are despised by Republicans for a number of reasons – the main ones being;
- Unions represent a large section of the average middle class working American. A representation that includes negotiating with business owners, Corporations and government officials to secure better working conditions, better pay, holiday allotments, health care packages and in some cases, retirement options for their members. The very nature of these negotiations are to benefit the union member, thus, it is considered by most Republican as putting the business owners, Corporations or government officials at a disadvantage.
- It is common knowledge that Unions represent the working middle class. Therefore, they support political candidates who look out for the best interest of their members. Almost all the time, those political candidates would be from the Democratic party.
The struggle by Republicans to silence Unions in this country and take away their negotiating privileges has been going on for decades, and now, what’s happening in Wisconsin is the envy of other Republican governors and state legislatures across this nation. Today, in a final vote that is expected to pass the Republican controlled government, Unions will in essence, be silenced.
What’s in the Bill?
The bill – which passed the Legislature Budget committee on Wednesday with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats voting against it – will, among other things, require public workers to pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care coverage. It will also take away the collective bargaining rights of the unions representing these workers.
“I think the taxpayers will support this idea,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald had the nerve to say. But taxpayers seem to feel a different way. Over the last 3 days, thousands have gathered in opposition of the measure.
Yahoo News Reports;
“I’m sad. Scared. Disappointed,” said Kelly Dzurick, a 31-year-old fifth-grade teacher in Elkhorn, who came to the Capitol on Wednesday night. “Nobody’s listening to what people say.”
Democrats have been powerless to stop the bill.
“The story around the world is the rush to democracy,” said Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar. “The story in Wisconsin is the end of the democratic process.”
Yes, elections do have consequences, and what’s happening in Wisconsin is just the beginning of a dangerously empowered Republican party.
UPDATE: Where Are The Democrats?
In a shocking turn of events, Wisconsin congressional Democrats have all disappeared, causing the final vote on this controversial bill by Republicans to be post-poned. The NY Times reports;
By noon, Ted Blazel, the sergeant-at-arms, began making his way through the Capitol building, packed with chanting protesters (elated at the development), in search of a Democrat — in offices, under desks, in corridors. “Nothing yet,” he said, his forehead drenched in sweat.
If none of the lawmakers were found in the building, the Wisconsin State Patrol would be assigned to begin searching for them elsewhere, said a Senate official.
Inside the Capitol, speculation swirled: Were the Democrats together somewhere, maybe even in another state by now?
The presumed reason for their disappearance is that Democrats — and thousands of teachers, state workers and students — vigorously oppose the Republican-backed bill that would sharply curtail the collective bargaining rights and slash benefits for most public sector workers, including teachers, in the state. Republicans control the Senate by a 19-to-14 margin, but 20 senators — and thus, at least one Democrat — are needed to vote on a bill.
At the time this post was written, the Democrats were found – all of them – in a neighboring state of Rockford Illinois. They have since disappeared again in an effort to give more time to the demonstrators to pressure Republicans into listening to the demands of the Wisconsin people.