Many say it shifts the balance away from public sector employees, such teachers.
Washington DC (KM) A US Supreme Court decision on Wednesday is being described as a big blow to public sector unions. The High Court, in a 5-4 ruling, said, in Janus vs.. AFSCME, government employees, such as teachers, social workers, fire fighters and 911 operators, who do not join a public sector union at their places of employment do not have to pay the “fair share” fee. The revenue is used by the unions in negotiating with employers such issues as wages, working hours and working conditions.
“When you get down it, the case isn’t about what’s good for educators or our students. It’s about special interest groups who want to shift the balance in their favor,” says Adam Mendelson, Communications Director for the Maryland State Education Association, which has as its affiliates local teachers unions around the state, such as the Frederick County Teachers Association.
Mendelson says the outcomes of these negotiations benefit teachers who are members as well as non-members of their local teachers unions. “We’re fighting to make the path to the middle class just a little bit wider for educators who are in our schools to make sure that they have enough pay to be able to raise their families and buy houses in our community; enough health care to not worry about having a sick family member; and a secure retirement when they finish their career,” he says.
Students also benefit when teaches are well compensated and given the opportunity to enter the middle class, says Mendelson. “It’s about making sure that their students have enough resources in their classrooms. That they’re going to be on the pathway to the middle class when they graduate, whether they’re headed straight to a career or heading to college before starting their career,” he says.
In its ruling, the Justices cited free speech concerns, something which Senator Ben Cardin (D) called “turning the First Amendment into a sword, and using it against workaday economic and regulatory policy,” he said in a statement. “The First Amendment was meant for better things.”
“Fair Share fees don’t force individuals to join the union,” says Mendelson. “They simply make sure that all educators are contributing to the negotiated benefits in their contract, and the representation that union are legally obligated to offer; to make sure that everyone is contributing to that.”
Despite this decision, Mendelson says MSEA and its affiliated unions will continue their work. “It’s something that’s disappointing to see, but we’re going to keep fighting hard to make sure that our educators and our students have what they need to be successful everyday,” he says.
By Kevin McManus