SEPTEMBER 2015, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News
AFSCME’s pro-active initiative to strengthen union being conducted in Lehigh Valley
BY PAUL TUCKER
REGION, August 23rd- The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union has began a “pro-active” campaign of reaching-out to their members in anticipation of a United States Supreme Court ruling that could impact public sector labor organizations in early 2016.
The Supreme Court will hear a case in the fall session that could result in public sector labor organizations to represent workers that refuse to join the union and not help finance the expense of their representation.
The high court stated in late June it would consider during the next term whether public employees must pay fees to labor organizations that they have refused to join but receive the negotiated wage and working conditions under the terms and conditions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between governments and unions.
The Supreme Court ruled forty years ago that states could allow labor unions to collect fees, often called ‘agency fee’ from non-member government workers to help pay collective bargaining cost. However, the employee could be excluded from paying anything toward the labor organizations spending on political involvement. Federal workers were not a part of the ruling with most involving state and school workers including teachers. Most union haters and pro-business conservatives on the court in 1977 were critical of the ruling which was called “Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education”.
The union haters have stated that it was unfair for unions to receive fees from workers that do not want to join the union. However, the labor organization must still represent the worker(s) should he or she be fired and will receive the wage and benefits that was negotiated between the labor organization and management. A majority of the nine justices could rule against any government worker from paying compulsory dues, which would financially hurt the labor organization.
Rebecca Friedrichs, a California teacher who has refused to join the California Teachers Association, which is affiliated with the National Education Association (NEA) brought the case against the Union stating that the union was infringing against her First Amendment right of free-speech. She has claimed that her First Amendment rights were violated despite that none of the fees collected from her is used for political activities. Her backers have argued that she and anti-union workers like her should not be compelled to fund collective bargaining techniques and positions which they disagree.
Unions such as AFSCME, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the NEA would be the most effected should the court rule in favor of Ms. Friedrichs.
David Fillman, AFSCME District 13 Executive Director in Harrisburg, which represents AFSCME members throughout the Lehigh Valley, stated his union is participating in a initiative that is intended to inform and educate members of the consequences of a ruling against ‘agency fee’ compulsory dues. Under the program called “AFSCME Strong” the union has put a staff together that is reaching-out to the membership to make them understand that they need to support their union and combat the anti-union attitude many have within the political world.
Mr. Fillman said the staff will engage the members around a campaign that will build power through education and mobilization. AFSCME 13 has approximately 52,600 members and the unions’ goal is to engage 80 percent of them before March 2016, the month the Supreme Court ruling regarding the compulsory dues is expected.
He said the staff will collectively train around 5 percent of the membership to sign-up, commit and activate co-workers to conduct one-on-one conversations about why they need to be engaged in their union. “The program is putting boots on the ground. There are many anti-union groups out there who want to destroy us,” said Mr. Fillman.
More information on the program will be published in future editions of the newspaper.