Wednesday, June 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision overturning a 1977 ruling that public employee unions could, without violating First Amendment free speech rights, collect fair share or agency fees. The long-awaited decision is seen as a potential blow against collective bargaining.
The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest union with more than 3 million members, filed an amicus brief in the case with the American Association of University Professors to expose the truly radical nature of the plaintiff’s arguments including unsupported and audacious legal claim that public-sector collective bargaining in itself is constitutionally suspect. The OEA is the state-level affiliate of NEA.
“Keeping our union strong is important in our advocacy for our students and for our fellow educators,” said OEA President Becky Higgins. “Keeping our union strong is important in our advocacy for our students and for our fellow educators.”
At its core, Janus v. AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) questioned whether non-union members – who share in the wages, benefits, and other protections negotiated by collectively bargained contract – may be required to pay a share of the cost of those negotiations.
The decision is a concerted attempt to weaken collective-bargaining rights by imposing right-to-work rules on public unions across the nation, including the Ohio Education Association’s more than 125,000 members.
It also contradicts the wishes of the American public. A recent Pew Research Center study finds that 55% of Americans have a favorable impression of unions and feel the large reduction in union representation has been mostly bad for working people in the U.S.
The ruling disregards jurisprudence and national precedent established by the Court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. The Court ruled in favor of a shared financial responsibility for a union’s collective-bargaining activity.
The ruling is also a sweeping repudiation of the will of Ohio voters. In 2011, Senate Bill 5 (SB5), which weakened collective-bargaining rights for public employees was repealed by nearly 62% of Ohio voters after a campaign by educators and other public employees against the measure.
“Many of our schools have faced serious funding cuts that are likely to grow even worse. We’ve seen it in the resources available to our students, and we have felt it in our paychecks,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.
Alex Price, an instrumental music teacher at Belmont High School and Wright Brothers Middle School in Dayton, adds, “Fine arts programs were being cut from my school and students were missing out on subjects like arts and music. My union negotiated with the district to bring back music so our students could have a well-rounded curriculum. Strong unions build strong schools and strong communities. We need unions now more than ever.”
Updated on April 12, 2019
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“In an era when the rich just get richer while the poor seem to fall through the cracks, we need to come together and speak out for change — whether it’s smaller class sizes, training for educators, fair pay and benefits, healthcare or safer work environments. I won’t stop fighting for it because America needs it.”
— Hasheen Wilson, network administrator,and an adjunct faculty member, Youngstown
“An unfavorable ruling in the Janus Supreme Court case changes some aspects of our union, but educators across the state understand the importance of preserving collective bargaining rights to advocate for our profession and our students. I am confident we will work together to meet the new challenges we face, working harder than ever to organize educators, making sure they understand the value of a strong union.”
— Dan Greenberg, English/language arts teacher, Sylvania Education Association
“Fine arts programs were being cut from my school and students were missing out on subjects like arts and music. My union negotiated with the district to bring back music so our students could have a well-rounded curriculum.
When some school principals tried to renege on the agreement, as a union, we stepped up. We came together through our union and spoke out for what our kids need. Strong unions build strong schools and strong communities. We need unions now more than ever.”
— Alex Price, music teacher and band director, Dayton Education Association
“A few years ago, I walked into my special-education classroom and found there were no books and no curriculum. It was basically a babysitting room.
This was happening to special ed students — kids who need the most, and yet they were getting the least. I had a moral obligation to fight for them. I went to my union and said, ‘Now what do I do?’ They said you’re going to file a grievance, and we’re going to get those kids’ books.”
— Marjorie Punter, retired special-education teacher, Dayton
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- OEA Blog | You Cannot Silence the Voice of Working People — OEA President Becky Higgins
- OEA Blog
- OEA Blog | The Power of Participation — Julie Rine, Minerva Local Education Association
- NEA.org | A Case to Rig the System Against Working People
- 06.14.2018 | Vox — The Supreme Court Case that Could Kneecap Public Sector Unions, Explained
- 06.28.2018 | Toledo Blade: Janus Ruling Unlikely to Impact Local Unions, Organizers Say
- 02.25.2018 | The New York Times — Behind a Key Anti-Labor Case, a Web of Conservative Donors
- 02.24.2018 | The Guardian — Fears Grow as Right-wing Billionaires Battle to Erode US Union Rights
- 01.19.2018 | Educators File Amicus Brief with Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME
“The energy we are seeing with teachers standing up in the neighboring states of West Virginia and Kentucky and elsewhere as the #RedForEd movement spreads across the country is unparalleled in recent history. Public opinion is with us.”
— OEA President Becky Higgins