With all of the attention to the U. S. Supreme Court decision in the Harris v. Quinn case, the American Labor Studies Center has sagely steered away from the clamor of claiming victory/defeat and focused instead on how the case has put a spotlight on an important aspect of American labor law.
If you work in a place that has a union, you are covered by the collective bargaining agreement that was negotiated between the union and the employer. That means you have established wages, pensions, vacations, health insurance, seniority and working hours. If you work for a place that has a union, you have a voice that is protected. You can advocate for health and safety on the job without fear of being fired for speaking up. So long as you do your job well, you will still have your job protected even if office politics change and a new boss is hired who is anti-everything you stand for and has a cousin who wants to be sitting at your desk.
If you, as a worker, are represented by a union, then under federal law you are guaranteed equal and nondiscriminatory representation. That means that, even if you choose not to join the union at your workplace, you are still provided the same services, advocacy and contractual rights and benefits as those in the union. The union has a legal duty to protect you. The union, according to U.S. labor law, is the exclusive representative for all employees, the ALCS explains. That means employers do not have to deal with two more competing organizations to establish the terms and conditions of employment.
Those who choose not to belong to the union are assessed a fee to help defray the cost and obligation of the union to provide the benefits of advocacy and legal representation. Fees are not “dues.” They are not for political campaigns. Federal and state laws guarantee that no one can be forced to pay fees to a political or social cause they do not support.
“This is not a First Amendment issue abridging free speech but simply contributing to help pay for services provided,” ALSC explains. “The Supreme Court Harris v.Quinn decision did not exclude the right of employers and unions of full-time employees to negotiate “fair share” provision … Exclusive representation and its attendant obligations mean that everyone who receives benefits has an obligation to pay for them.”
Anyone who is a middle-class worker should be aware that the growth of the middle class in this country has come from unions. Read the history of Kate Mullany, a collar laundry worker in Troy. Reread your history about factory workers, child labor, the seven-day work week, lack of sick pay or worker suppresssion. Talk to an elder relative or neighbor who lived through this, and then look at your sons, daughters or grandchildren who will be entering the workplace someday.
Anyone who is a middle-class worker should know that the elite of this country are turning their dollars over very quickly to take further control of the workplace and squash workers rights. Pay attention.