Many might think the need for employment law attorneys has diminished as labor operations become more transparent in the digital age, however, the need for protecting workers continues. On January 11th, the Supreme Court will be hearing a case brought by teachers in California. At issue is the requirement that public-sector workers pay union fees—whether they join a union or not. This practice has been in play for a long time. The thinking behind it is that even if public-sector workers don’t join their respective unions, they receive many of the benefits the unions work for, like pay raises and job protection.
Unions are generally recognized as pro-labor, and often represented as speaking for skilled laborers like electricians and carpenters, as well as public-sector workers like teachers and social workers. Most of the recent news we hear about unions concerns workers’ attempts to unionize in places such as Whole Foods and Walmart. Unions aim to guarantee fair pay for their members through collective bargaining, but does mandating fees for public-sector workers help their cause?
Ten teachers from California are fighting to stop paying union fees, arguing that the previous case allowing mandatory union fees, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court will decide whether it is indeed constitutional to force public-sector workers to pay union fees, especially if the workers don’t agree with their unions or don’t feel as if their unions are working for them. Their findings could affect laws in up to 25 states that require public-sector workers to pay union fees.
Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association could have many repercussions for labor unions. The Supreme Court decision may affect how unions work in the future, curtailing their effectiveness as collective bargainers, as well as diminishing their operating budgets. While employers cannot stop employees from unionizing, many demonize unions. Combined with the negative media attention unions tend to garner, this case could serve to harm ongoing unionization efforts in the service sector while reducing the purview of public-sector unions.
Regardless of the Supreme Court’s June decision, what should be front and center throughout this case is the importance of protecting the rights of workers, whether they’re unionized or not. It is important that non-unionized workers educate themselves about their rights as employees and know when they should hire an employment law attorney to help them. Unionized workers are generally assisted with this process, but not always. For those unsure of their rights, the California State Bar offers some information regarding employee rights. However, it is always a good idea to consult with a qualified LA employment law attorney to discuss the merits of your case.
Many employee rights cases often focus around discrimination, sexual harassment, or unpaid wages, but labor law extends much further. With the increase of the on-demand labor force, the integration of the internet, and the mobilization of more unions, labor law will need to continue to evolve to meet the needs of the changing workforce. An LA employee rights attorney might even say this is an exciting time to be practicing labor law and helping to protect workers!