Public Sector Organized Labor Hobbled by SCOTUS Ruling

organized laborIn a blow to public sector organized labor, the Supreme Court granted a long-time wish of conservatives, rewriting a decision allowing public enterprises to charge union dues to non-union members in order to exact some contribution for collective bargaining. With the recent decision, if California workers choose not to join the union, they cannot be required to contribute to union operations.

Organized Labor – No More Share Fair Fees

Referred to as share fair fees in California, the court ruled the First Amendment rights of non-union employees are violated when compelled to support unions with which they may disagree philosophically or politically. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion for the court’s five to four decision.

Impact on Public Sector Organized Labor Unions

Over five million workers across the country will be impacted by the court’s decision, including many right here in California. Additionally, the power of unions is expected to decline with the corresponding decline in dollars. Disgruntled union members who resent paying dues to increase the wages and job safety for non-union members are expected to drop their memberships in large numbers, reaching as high as 700,000. Why pay dues if every employee receives the same benefits, regardless of membership? The American Enterprise Institute projects membership losses of anywhere from 20-50% in coming years.

Impact on Public Sector Organized Labor Union Workers

The effects of weakened unions over recent years have already had an economic impact on all workers, union and non-union alike. Wages have been steadily dropping in line with union membership in the past decade, and are projected to be 5% lower than expected due to the decreased clout of unions. That is just about $3,000 per year for the typical non-union employee.  It is argued that the shrinking sway of unions is one of the key reasons that workers’ wages stagnate. This ruling, then, with the associated decline in union membership, is anticipated to impact roughly five million jobs in the public sector, from educators to pipe fitters.

In the past, non-union employers tended to raise wages to compete with contemporary earnings that union employers paid out, meaning entire communities enjoyed the economic boost negotiated by unions. Additionally, when the rank and file received negotiated raises, their non-union managers also generally got a pay hike. So, it seems, all workers won.

Beyond salary considerations, unions also negotiated to establish policies that promoted fair treatment and safety in the workplace. Oftentimes, those policies carried over into rival businesses, since competitors could be at a disadvantage otherwise. [Read more…]

California Employees’ Right to Organize a Union

labor unionUnion organization changed the lives of California workers decades ago. Arguably, it was the work of those early activists that propelled many of the working class into the middle class, providing them with opportunities to own their own homes and earn disposable income. Despite the heroic beginnings of the union movement, only 16% of today’s California workers carry union cards. If you are experiencing illegal employer actions to block your efforts to organize labor, you may wish to seek the counsel of a local labor attorney.

Dreams of Historic Union Organizers

Caesar Chavez famously fought for the rights of farmworkers, and Harry Bridges was on the front lines advocating for longshoremen. They, and others like them, organized strikes and other actions to improve working conditions and wages for American workers. Pat Brown endeavored to eliminate employers’ right to make employment decisions based on skin color. Anna Smith led demonstrations protesting the horrendous conditions during the depression.

Despite these gallant soldiers of the working class, union membership is in serious decline. Likewise, the median income of California workers has experienced a parallel decline, along with a drop in homeownership rates.

Starting a Union

Forming a union is within the rights of every American worker. Employees are allowed to discuss and push an agenda putting forth the ideas surrounding organizing as workers. If you wish to start the wheels turning, here are some important tips worth heeding:

  • Be aware of your rights, and have clear goals;
  • Create an organizing committee and gather information about the workplace structure, employee contact information, and facts about the employer’s union history;
  • Create a platform highlighting the issues you’d like to address;
  • Investigate local unions and determine which one is best for you;
  • Solicit input from a local union organizer;
  • Sign up a majority of workers quickly so elections can be held;
  • Signed cards are required to petition the labor board or the state for the ability to hold an election. This may take some weeks, so keep the fire burning:
  • Negotiate a bargaining contract with the employer.
  • Keep employees organized and motivated.

Employer Resistance to a Union

Despite state and federal laws permitting employees to organize in this fashion, many employers resist such movement. They may put a lot of money into a campaign to destroy organizer’s momentum. While they have every right to defend their position, employers may not:

  • Threaten organizers;
  • Limit free speech during employee breaks;
  • Make employment decisions based on union activity;
  • “Get even” with organizers in any way.

[Read more…]


The information on this website should not be considered to be legal advice, nor construed to be the formation of any manner of attorney client relationship. Prior to taking any form of legal action, please consult with an attorney experienced in the appropriate area of law germane to your situation. Case results and testimonials presented on or any of its related websites are germane to the facts present for each individual case and is not a promise of similar outcomes for any other cases. This website is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the State of California.