The U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of a right-wing campaign against unions is cause to celebrate. But it’s also a reminder that we can never let down our guard.
Ottawa (01 April 2016) — Democracy in the United States scored a huge victory earlier this week when, in a split decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a well-funded right-wing campaign to starve unions of their dues.
The case, known as Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, sought to overturn the U.S. version of Canada’s Rand Formula, which decrees that all employees who benefit from collective bargaining must pay the costs of that bargaining in the form of union dues.
Similar to Lavigne case here in Canada
It was a case very similar to a 1991 case here in Canada called Lavigne v Ontario Public Service Employees Union. Led by a young Stephen Harper, the right-wing National Citizen’s Coalition bankrolled the case of an anti-union government employee who claimed he shouldn’t have to pay his union dues.
Canada’s Supreme Court rejected Lavigne’s claim. And this week, the American Supreme Court rejected the similar Friedrichs claim. But it was very close: the justices were split 4 — 4 on the decision. Had the right-wing justice Antonin Scalia not passed away earlier this year, Friedrichs would likely have been successful, and a terrible blow would have been dealt to all American unions and, because we know that strong unions are integral to healthy and active democracies, to American democracy itself.
We must remain vigilant
A victory is a victory, but this close call reminds us that our struggle to protect democracy and basic human rights will never be over — we can always count on the wealthy to do what they can to increase their wealth at our expense.
If you’re interested in learning more about Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, there are links to two articles below that provide solid analysis of why all U.S. citizens will benefit from the decision:
NUPGE National President
James Clancy is the National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE