The Supreme Court heard oral argument in a case yesterday that could have sweeping implications for working families in Washington and across this country.
The case – Friedrichs v the California Teachers Association – is the latest example of the ongoing attack on unions, particularly those that represent people working in the public sector.
At stake in the case is whether police officers, correctional employees, firefighters, nurses, and so many other public servants in our counties and cities can continue to powerfully stand together to negotiate fair wages and benefits for their families.
If the Court rules against unions, the ability of working people to preserve their livelihoods will be threatened. Union members would be able to abandon their membership, but continue to receive all of the benefits of union representation without having to pay for it. Unions would lose resources, contracts could become weaker, and the membership as a whole would suffer.
The Friedrichs case is being bankrolled by wealthy special interests – the same groups that helped pass so-called “right-to-work” (for less) laws in Wisconsin and Michigan and rolled back collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin.
The impact of these laws has been profound. For the first time in decades, the majority of Americans do not belong to the middle class. The top 1 percent now earn one fifth of all US income – the highest percentage since the 1920s. With Friedrichs, the Court could add to damage these laws have inflicted on working families.
In anticipation of a Friedrichs decision that undermines unions, radical think tanks like the Freedom Foundation are actively trying to confuse public employees in Washington State into abandoning their union membership.
Members of Teamsters 117 should be aware of the threat that Friedrichs and groups like the Freedom Foundation pose. We should also understand who is behind the threat.
To help you learn more, we have set up a website at www.FamilyStrengthCommunity.org. I encourage you to spend some time reviewing the resources on the site and to share it with your co-workers. The site also allows you to renew your commitment to your union online.
We’re also conducting member-to-member interviews in workplaces across our union. The purpose of the interviews is to find out what matters most to you, talk about the ongoing threats to unions, and to continue to build unity and strength.
Only by standing together and re-affirming our commitment to each other can we as union members preserve our hard-fought wages and benefits, raise standards in our jobs, and serve and protect our communities. I encourage you to take that step.