On Monday, Jan. 11, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Friedrichs v. the California Teachers Association (CTA). The outcome of this case will have a direct effect on all public sector employees, including teachers, firefighters, postal workers, and healthcare workers at public hospitals — including residents.
A decision is expected by the end of June, and the outcome of this case will impact the working conditions and bargaining rights our union has worked so hard for.
Right now If you are a full member the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR), you pay membership dues and have the ability to participate fully in CIR’s democratic process. You help set the terms of what is bargained for in your contract, you run for leadership positions, vote for leaders, and some of you even weigh in on national policy issues.
For those who are not full members, they are charged a fair share fee, a smaller percentage of the membership dues amount. Non-members are charged this fee because they are still represented by CIR, regardless of whether they choose to support the union as full members. This system helps sustain the union and maintain a strong voice in patient care and resident work conditions.[Watch a short video that explains fair share fees]
With progress always comes a backlash, and the Friedrichs v. CTA case is part of a string of attacks on the rights of public employees.
The plaintiffs seek to overturn a 40 year precedent established by the Supreme Court. Taking away the fair share will diminish the collective power of unions. It is one of many threats to the health of American public sector unions, and the change would be immediate if the court rules in their favor.
Outcome of the Case
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of unions, nothing changes — our unions stay strong and non-members continue paying fair share fees.
If the Supreme Court rules against the California Teachers Association, public sector residents, and all unionized public sector workers, would not have to pay the fair share fee. They’d get the full benefits and protections of the contract, yet wouldn’t be obligated to pay a cent for what you, as a full member, and the long line of residents before you, have won. Again, the fair share fee is exactly that — a resident paying their fair share of union costs for the union which was formed at a worksite through a democratic vote.
What You Can Do
The way to combat the disintegration of the union is by sticking together: continue union membership and the fight for our collective rights. Encourage your fee-paying colleagues to join the union and get involved as full members. Don’t allow the outcome of this case to weaken the housestaff union.
Interested in reaching out to colleagues about the importance of membership?
Strong Unions, Strong Democracy: New York Times OpEd by Richard Kahlenberg
SCOTUS v. the American worker: The upcoming Supreme Court case that could explode inequality: Liz Kennedy, SALON
Why You Should Pay Attention to the ‘Friedrichs’ Supreme Court Case: Dave Johnson, Huffington Post Blog