Wednesday, June 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision overturning a 1977 ruling that public employee unions could, without violating First Amendment free speech rights, collect fair share or agency fees. The long-awaited decision is seen as a potential blow against collective bargaining.
The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest union with more than 3 million members, filed an amicus brief in the case with the American Association of University Professors to expose the truly radical nature of the plaintiff’s arguments including unsupported and audacious legal claim that public-sector collective bargaining in itself is constitutionally suspect.
OEA is the state-level affiliate of NEA.
“As a 19-year classroom teacher, I know what my students need to succeed, and strong public employee unions give educators the collective voice to advocate for smaller class sizes, safer schools, and better learning conditions for their students,” said OEA President Becky Higgins. “Keeping our union strong is important in our advocacy for our students and for our fellow educators.”
At its core, Janus v. AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) questioned whether non-union members – who share in the wages, benefits, and other protections negotiated by collectively bargained contract – may be required to pay a share of the cost of those negotiations.
The decision is a concerted attempt to weaken collective-bargaining rights by imposing right-to-work rules on public unions across the nation, including the Ohio Education Association’s more than 125,000 members.
It also contradicts the wishes of the American public. A recent Pew Research Center study finds that 55% of Americans have a favorable impression of unions and feel the large reduction in union representation has been mostly bad for working people in the U.S.
The ruling disregards jurisprudence and national precedent established by the Court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. The Court ruled in favor of a shared financial responsibility for a union’s collective-bargaining activity.
The ruling is also a sweeping repudiation of the will of Ohio voters. In 2011, Senate Bill 5 (SB5), which weakened collective-bargaining rights for public employees was repealed by nearly 62% of Ohio voters after a campaign by educators and other public employees against the measure.
“Many of our schools have faced serious funding cuts that are likely to grow even worse. We’ve seen it in the resources available to our students, and we have felt it in our paychecks,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “All over the country, they are cutting funding for arts and PE, up-to-date textbooks, and class sizes that allow for one-on-one instruction. A strong union and collective bargaining agreements are what help to ensure students receive the tools and resources they need to succeed in school and in life.”
Alex Price, an instrumental music teacher at Belmont High School and Wright Brothers Middle School in Dayton, adds, “Fine arts programs were being cut from my school and students were missing out on subjects like arts and music. My union negotiated with the district to bring back music so our students could have a well-rounded curriculum.
When some school principals tried to renege on the agreement, as a union, we stepped up. We came together through our union and spoke out for what our kids need. Strong unions build strong schools and strong communities. We need unions now more than ever.”