Union supporters rally in San Francisco to express concern about pending US Supreme Court case

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — About 100 labor union members and supporters rallied outside the Federal Building in San Francisco today to express dismay about a pending Supreme Court case on teacher union fees that could weaken the power of public employee unions.

San Francisco Labor Council executive officer Tim Paulson told the crowd the case “represents one of the greatest threats to organized labor and collective bargaining we’ve seen in recent years.”

In the case before the high court, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, 10 teachers are suing the Burlingame-based California Teachers Association and other unions to challenge a state law that requires non-union members to help pay for unions’ costs in representing them in contract negotiations.

In California, the fee charged to non-member teachers is about 70 percent of the full union dues for members. Unions are obligated under another state law to represent all teachers in a district, including non-union members, in contract bargaining and grievance procedures.

The teachers who sued in federal court in Santa Ana claim the enforced fees violate their free speech rights.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case last week and is due to issue its decision by the end of June.

Speakers at today’s rally argued that labor organizations have helped to protect workers’ rights, including a free-speech right to protest adverse working conditions.

Alan Benjamin, a member of Office & Professional Employees International Union Local 3, said, “We consider this is one of the most fundamental attacks on this labor movement that has come down in a generation.

“We’re going to fight, no matter what happens,” Benjamin said.

In addition to California, 22 other states have laws allowing public-sector unions to charge fees to non-members for their services. In a Detroit case in 1997, the high court upheld such laws.

The teachers who filed the lawsuit are asking the Supreme Court to overturn that precedent.

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