Friedrichs v CTA

Update on Supreme Court Case

A few weeks ago we wrote about a case at the Supreme Court that might have a big impact on SHARE at UMMS: Friedrichs v. The California Teachers Association. 
As you may have heard, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away suddenly. Justice Scalia was considered by experts to be the swing vote in the Friedrichs case. It is probable that his death will delay a decision on Friedrichs v. CTA and other close cases before the Court this session. 
What will happen next?
The two most likely scenarios are:
1.     The Court could vote 4-4 on the case. Then the ruling from the lower court, in favor of the union, would stand. It would be as if the case had never gone to the Supreme Court. Someone else would likely bring a similar case to the Supreme Court in the future, but it would take a while for a new case to work its way up through the lower courts.
2.     The Court could decide that the case should be re-argued once a new Justice is appointed. This could also take a while. President Obama has said that he will nominate someone to succeed Justice Scalia. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that the Senate will block any Obama nominee. So it is unclear whether there will be a ninth Supreme Court Justice before the next President is in office. 
What does this mean for SHARE members?
Whatever happens, it is likely that the Friedrichs case, or one like it, will eventually be heard by the Supreme Court, but probably not this session. 
We will continue to talk together about what a negative decision would mean for us, what would happen if our union were either gone or weaker, and what we collectively want to do about it. 

Supreme Court Case Could Affect SHARE

For those who could not attend the January SHARE-UMMS Information Meetings, below is a summary of what we talked about. This is the beginning of a discussion among SHARE members that will continue over the coming months.

Friedrichs v. the California Teachers Association... what does this have to do with SHARE?

On January 11, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case called Friedrichs v. the California Teachers Association. The ruling could have a big impact on our union here at UMass Medical School, and on public-sector unions across the United States. The Court will probably announce its decision sometime this spring.

If the Court rules against unions, it will make it harder for public-sector unions, including SHARE, to survive. SHARE members would have to decide together if we want to keep the union. Over the next couple of months, members will have opportunities to discuss what the Court’s decision could mean for our union, and what we want to do about it.

What would the impact be?

In the most extreme case, the Court could rule that union members have the option to decide not to pay dues or fees to the union, but still be represented by the union and get the benefits that dues-paying members get.

Why would a union still have to represent people who don’t pay to support the union’s work?

Under current U.S. labor law, a union has to represent everyone in the bargaining unit equally, whether they choose to join the union or not. For people who don’t want to be union members, the law has allowed unions to charge an “agency fee”, to cover the cost of the work they do negotiating contracts and supporting members. Everybody pays because everybody benefits. The Supreme Court is now being asked to overrule this law.

What would we do if the Supreme Court rules against unions?

SHARE members would have a decision to make together – Do we want to keep our union?

If people can choose not to pay, probably some people would stop paying. If a lot of people stopped paying, the union would have fewer resources to support employees, and our strength would erode; it would be harder to negotiate good raises or help employees with work issues. Eventually, we could end up with no union at all.

In 1997, employees decided that they wanted a union here at UMMS. It was a big decision – no one knew exactly what it would mean to have a union, they only knew what it was like without one. And they voted to form SHARE.

Now, we have a similar choice. Most people in SHARE now were not here before the union election. They are in the opposite situation – they don’t know what it is like here without a union. Over the next couple of months, we will talk about the difference between having a union and not. What would happen if there were no more SHARE? Do the advantages outweigh the cost of dues? What was it like before the union?

Join the Discussion

We will be talking more about this in monthly Information Meetings, individual conversations, and informal “Drop-In” times. If you have questions, or want to discuss this further, please talk to someone who is active with SHARE, or call the SHARE office at 508-929-4020.