Split Supreme Court Delivers Victory for Unions

A guest column written by Robert Boreanaz, senior partner and labor and employment attorney at Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria, appears in the April 18 issue of the Buffalo Law Journal. In “Labor movement scores victory with split Supreme Court”, Mr. Boreanaz describes a tie vote in the U.S. Supreme Court and the victory it delivered for unions and collective bargaining. On March 29, the Supreme Court reached a 4-4 vote in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a major labor case on union funding. This tie vote upholds the legality of fair share fees and allows unions to maintain the system they use to collect funds that support collective bargaining and obtaining benefits for workers.

How collective bargaining helps workers

Collective bargaining is the negotiation between union leaders and the company’s management that sets out the terms of employment such as working conditions, base pay, overtime, work hours, and benefits. By law, collective bargaining benefits all workers whether they are in the union or not and non-members receive the same wages and benefits that are enjoyed by union members. Some union contracts include a provision that requires non-members to pay “fair share” fees, which are the non-members’ share of the costs of obtaining union benefits. The fees paid by union members and non-union members alike go toward funding collective bargaining efforts; without them, the unions risk not having enough money to continue negotiating for benefits.

Effects of the decision on collective bargaining

The issue in the case brought before the Supreme Court was whether or not non-union members should be able to share in the benefits of collective bargaining without paying for the costs of the negotiations. The plaintiff in the case sought to strike down the fees paid by non-union members while still allowing all employees to receive the benefits of collective bargaining. Certain teachers argued that requiring non-union members to pay for collective bargaining negotiations violates their First Amendment rights by having them give money to a group that may have political stances with which they disagree. After deliberating on the issue, the Supreme Court remains evenly divided. This means that they stand by legal precedent and uphold the lower court’s decision not to strike down fair share fees. The Supreme Court’s opinion on this allows unions to keep their funding and continue collective bargaining negotiations that benefit all workers.

Who to call

If you are concerned about how the Supreme Court’s ruling will affect you, the attorneys at Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria can help. The firm’s union administration attorneys are committed to labor advocacy. For over 50 years, Lipsitz Green’s labor and employment department has been dedicated to aiding unions by providing legal counsel on a full range of issues, from negotiating labor agreements and contracts to representing unions before the National Labor Relations Board. To learn more about Lipsitz Green’s ongoing worker advocacy and how the firm’s attorneys can advance your labor union, contact Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria today.

This article does not purport to give legal advice and is for informational purposes only.