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Andrew Spiro: Supreme Court case would weaken workers' rights

Andrew Spiro is a proud IFT Local 4408 member and State Library Specialist in Springfield. As an IFT Member Ambassador and concerned labor activist, he wrote this op-ed for the State Journal-Register to reiterate the benefits of unionism for members and non-members alike, and to warn us how the upcoming Supreme Court case, Friedrichs v. California, could impact workers and take away our voice.

It seems that every week, wealthy corporations have a new scheme to make themselves richer at the expense of the rest of us.

I’m a library technical specialist who depends on my union membership to advocate for the people I serve. Whether or not someone chooses to join a union, all workers benefit from having a union at their workplace, but a Supreme Court case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, could change this.

Friedrichs would take away my voice at work and the voice of all workers, like teachers or firefighters. It will weaken our collective voices and give those who got us into this economic mess more power over the direction of our economy. In the case of public workers like me, this decision will give more power to Gov. Bruce Rauner, who filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs in the case.

This was not the first time he has attacked the voice of average workers. In his short tenure, the Governor has tried repeatedly to pass laws that would weaken worker rights, but has been rebuffed repeatedly by local and state officials — most recently, by members of his own party. It’s unclear why the governor and his staff are wasting time trying to fulfill this ideological obsession when they could be addressing serious problems right here in Illinois, such as the budget impasse.

It’s obvious the public and those who represent them do not want to stifle the voices of working families, and now the ball is in the Supreme Court’s court — so to speak — to make a decision on the right side of history and vote it down.

There is a lot of misinformation being pushed by those funding and supporting this case. Despite what they say, the truth is that no one is required to join a union, and no one is required to pay any fees that fund political candidates.

Current law only requires non-union members to pay fees for the representation they receive, a benefit of being employed in a unionized workplace. This case will do nothing to give workers more voice on the job, but rather make it more difficult for fellow employees to work together for the good of the organization and the people who rely on the services we provide.

I think this bears repeating — no one is required to join a union and no one is required to pay fees that fund political candidates.

Union members are not alone in their convictions, which is why the governor has found little support for his ideas. The public believes that workers should have a right to organize and advocate for good working conditions. A Gallup poll released in August showed that a majority of Americans support for labor unions and that number continues to climb.

America’s economy has swung out of balance and those who have the most know exactly how to take advantage of this crisis. They promote the idea that taking away rights of working families will somehow save our economy. In the 1980s, they called it “trickle down” economics. It did not work then and it certainly will not lift us out of the economic downturn now. According to the Economic Policy Institute, wages remain higher in states where collective bargaining is protected. Unions are one of the few safeguards on living wage jobs.

The U.S. Supreme Court should reject this attempt by wealthy special interests to take away our voice at work. We need to retain the right to come together in solidarity and speak out for the work we do and the people we serve.



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