Powerful Corporate Interests Attempt Power Grab with Friedrichs Case

Powerful Corporate Interests Attempt Power Grab with Friedrichs Case

By Steve Smith

There’s been a good amount of hullabaloo in recent days about a Supreme Court case that threatens to undermine the ability of working people to stand together to negotiate a fair wage and decent benefits. Oral arguments in the case, Friedrichs v CTA, were presented before the Court yesterday. The case involves the Court re-examining a 40-year precedent that allows unions to charge fair-share fees for representing those who choose not to join the union but still benefit from the contracts it negotiates.

While the plaintiffs claim the case is about First Amendment rights, it’s really about the rich and powerful trying to put yet another nail in the coffin of America’s once thriving middle class by weakening unions of the teachers who inspire our children, the firefighters who put their lives on the line to protect us and many other public servants.

An Orange County teacher, Rebecca Friedrichs, has her name on the case but the real driving force behind it is a who’s who of right-wing corporate special interests that have spent decades trying to decimate workers and their unions.

Dana Milbank writes in the Washington Post that the goal of these wealthy backers is anything but noble:

The case, from California, involves arcane issues of “agency fees” and member opt-outs, but make no mistake: This is about campaign finance, and, in particular, propping up the Republican Party. Citizens United and other recent rulings created the modern era of super PACs and unlimited political contributions by the wealthy. Because there are fewer liberal billionaires (and those who are politically active, such as George Soros and Tom Steyer, tend to shun super PACs in favor of their own projects) the only real counterweight to Republican super PACs in this new era is union money. And the Supreme Court is about to attack that, too.

Not hard to see what a bad omen it would be for democracy if the Supreme Court rewarded this power grab with a favorable decision for the anti-union forces. And California editorial boards agree.

The Sacramento Bee:

In its 2010 Citizens United decision and ones since, the Supreme Court opened the way for unlimited corporate spending on politics. Those decisions have not served democracy well…We hope the court doesn’t further tilt electoral politics by eroding public employee unions’ ability to fund their efforts.

The LA Times flatly rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that fair share fees for bargaining aren’t distinguishable from political spending.

As we have observed before, paying for a service performed at the bargaining table is easily distinguishable from paying for political activities…The vastly more important issue in this case is whether the Supreme Court will undermine the ability of unions to effectively represent all of their workers at the bargaining table. The court should refuse to do so and reaffirm the Abood decision.

The Friedrichs case serves as a reminder to all of us just how far the powerful corporate interests will go to further erode the protections and rights of working people and the communities they serve. It’s also a reminder that our once thriving democracy increasingly resembles an oligarchy. Let’s hope the Court does the right thing by deferring to precedent and rejecting this ploy by corporate interests to tip the scales more in their favor and away from working people. 

For more information, go to http://americaworkstogether.us/