Facts on Friedrichs V CTA

The Supreme Court could deal a blow to working people

On Monday the Supreme Court heard arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which concerns whether public-sector employees who receive the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement should be required to pay their fair share of the cost of negotiating and protecting those benefits, regardless of whether they belong to a union. The case has potentially far-reaching consequences for workers. EPI research has illustrated how the case threatens the rights of working people to collectively negotiate with their employers, and this week EPI released a fact sheet explaining how collective bargaining raises wages and improves the standard of living for all workers. below.

Also: There are important tributes to the contributions of Martin Luther King jr. on our Democratic Left blog, http://www.dsausa.org

On Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association: The inextricable links between exclusive representation, agency fees, and the duty of fair representation

Agency clauses, which allow unions to collect fair-share fees from employees who are not union members but whom the union is legally required to represent are needed. Without them, ‘free-ridership’ grows, depleting union resources and undermining the ability of a union to serve all workers in the bargaining unit.

Source: On Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association: The inextricable links between exclusive representation, agency fees, and the duty of fair representation

Friedrichs: Son of Bush v. Gore

For Supreme Court conservatives, the Friedrichs case, which they heard yesterday, presents them with a twofer: They can both smash unions and defeat Democrats.

Source: Friedrichs: Son of Bush v. Gore

Teachers/Public Sector Unions Under Assault

By Joshua Pechthalt

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that asks whether all workers in public sector unions, be they members or not, have an obligation to contribute to the union’s costs to represent them in grievances and at the bargaining table.
The court has already ruled that unions have an obligation to represent non-members and that is not likely to change. It also ruled that non-members have an obligation to contribute to the costs of representation and bargaining. If the court now rules in favor of the plaintiffs in Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, the justices would be overturning a nearly 40-year precedent.

PechthaltThis may seem like a technical issue with little impact beyond public employee unions. But the implications of this decision could be far-reaching. If the court ends “fair share” union dues, it would hurt our unions’ ability to represent our members and weaken our ability to improve wages, benefits and working conditions.
For those of us in education, it could also undercut our ability to improve learning and teaching conditions by advocating for smaller class sizes, restoring art and music programs and improving teacher training and evaluation. While non-members do not contribute to the political program of their unions, the erosion of union funds will have an impact on our ability to organize in all aspects of union work.

The most obvious example is how the labor movement supported Proposition 30 in 2012. Union support for that historic measure, which raised income taxes on California’s wealthiest individuals, has generated more than $6 billion a year for education and ended years of devastating cuts and layoffs. Millions of students have benefited. Continue reading

Who Built the Golden Gate Bridge?

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I am a Northern California labor historian. Late last year I published a book entitled BUILDING THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE: A WORKERS’ ORAL HISTORY. The book is based on interviews I conducted with surviving 1930s construction veterans some years ago when they were still available. Together their voices chronicle the rough job conditions, the tragic accidents, and the ultimate triumphs experienced by workers who built an American icon during the Great Depression. The book ends with the testimonies of two nurses who cared for the injured and the recollections of an African American iron worker who overcame gender and racial challenges when she did maintenance labor on the great bridge in later years.

On Thursday, January 21, I will be reading from the book at Time Tested Books, 1114-21st Street, Sacramento, at 7 pm.
In solidarity, Harvey Schwartz

Minimum Wage Battle Goes to the Ballot in Sacramento

By Seth Sandronsky
Sacto-Card2

On December 21, 2015, Organize Sacramento and Raise the Wage Sacramento filed documents with the city clerk to gather 21,503 valid voter signatures necessary to place a minimum-wage measure on this year’s November ballot. The measure would boost the city’s minimum wage to $15 by 2020, peg it to the Consumer Price Index and let workers earn paid sick leave. [Ed: the California Minimum Wage is $10 per hour].

Two months earlier the city council, on a 6-3 vote, had approved a minimum-wage ordinance bump to $12.50 by 2020. For Organize Sacramento and Raise the Wage Sacramento, though, that was too low and slow, spurring the current ballot drive for a $15 minimum wage. The Democratic Party of Sacramento County, Restaurant Opportunities Center United, Capital Region Organizing Project and Center for Workers’ Rights also back the measure. Continue reading

U.S. Labor Activist Reports on China Crackdown

Interview with Ellen David Friedman

Ellen Friedman articleEllen David Friedman, a long-time organizer with the National Education Association in Vermont, founding member of the state’s Progressive Party and member of the Labor Notes Policy Committee, has been working for the last decade with labor and union activists in Hong Kong and the mainland. When she was in China recently, she was briefly detained and interrogated by the government. She spoke with Ashley Smith of Socialist Worker about the crackdown, its causes and what activists can do to help the Chinese activists win freedom and justice.

During your recent trip, you were detained amid the crackdown on labor NGOs. Can you tell us what happened?

I’ve been working in China for about 10 years, teaching labor studies and participating in various parts of the labor movement. I’d received many warnings before, but they had always been indirect, and passed along through colleagues. This was the first time that police came to question me directly.

They came to my hotel and interrogated me for about two hours–quite politely–but warned me to stop “meeting people” or risk legal consequences. They said I was violating the terms of my visa.

It’s hard to know if I was detained as part of the crackdown on activists. It happened in the same period of time, but one never knows the reason that things happen in China. Certainly when I was detained, they didn’t give me any explanation for it. So I think at best we can guess.

The context for this is that, since the start of the Xi Jinping administration in China three years ago, the state has taken a very definitive turn away from tolerance of any kind of activism and organizing in civil society. In the previous administration of Hu Jintao, there seemed to be a good deal more space for the development of NGOs and critical discourse and research. All of this under the Xi Jinping government has been very severely curtailed.

Since Xi came to power, the state has harassed labor NGOs, criminalized labor resistance, and detained and charged worker activists. The government has also conducted an “anti-foreign influence” campaign. And so, since I’ve been active in the labor movement in China during this period of time, and since I’m a foreigner, we can only say it’s consistent with their policy.

What’s the scale of the crackdown? Who is being targeted?

The most recent event was a high-profile detention of about 20 activists on December 3, all in Guangzhou, which is one of the largest cities in China. It’s on the southeast coast across from Hong Kong. It’s the capital city of Guangdong province, which was the birthplace of capital and labor markets beginning in the 1980s.

Since then, it’s undergone a vast amount of development. Tens of millions of migrant workers have moved there to get jobs. The area has also experienced an explosion of labor resistance. Around a dozen or so labor NGOs have been operating amid this worker activism.

The government targeted the activists associated with four of these labor NGOs. Some of these NGOs are pretty benign service organizations that do things like assisting injured workers to file worker’s compensation claims. Some of them are more actively involved in helping workers to develop skills for leadership and collective bargaining among those who have taken the lead in strikes and so on.

Most of the people were questioned and released within a day, but seven people are still detained and facing criminal charges. The most prominent person who was caught in the sweep is named Zeng Feiyang. He’s the founder and director of the oldest and best-known labor NGO in China, Panyu Workers’ Center.

The government has accused most of the detainees of disrupting public order, which is the usual allegation made against labor activists. They have charged one person with embezzlement. Solidarity activists have arranged for them to have attorneys–in fact, there is a now a 60-member attorney team that has volunteered to represent them–but so far, they haven’t been able to contact the detained activists. So we still don’t know the specific charges against them.

Continue reading

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