24 November 2015

AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress statement on Friedrichs

From: Howard Bunsis, AAUP-CBC <Communications@aaup.org>

Dear AAUP Member:

On Friday, the AAUP and other groups filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. This is an important case that could have far reaching consequences for AAUP members and for American workers more generally, and we want to make sure that our members are fully informed about it.
The case. This case started with a lawsuit funded by organizations seeking to weaken unions. It raises questions about whether and under what circumstances it is permissible for unions in the public sector to collect agency fees from nonmembers. Agency fees are collected by unions from members of the bargaining unit who choose not to become full members of the union, to defray the cost of representing them. Under current law, in some states, nonmembers can be charged a rate equivalent to full union dues unless they opt out. The Supreme Court will review two questions: (1) Whether agency fee arrangements should be invalidated in the public sector, and (2) whether it is permissible to require that public employees opt out from rather than opting in to paying the amount of full union dues. Given the questions before the Court there are several potential outcomes, ranging from an affirmation of the status quo to a complete prohibition on agency fees in the public sector.

Our position. The AAUP supports the right of unions to charge agency fees, also known as “fair share.” Even if bargaining unit members choose not to join as full members, they are represented by the union and benefit from the contract it negotiates. It is only fair for them to pay their fair share of the cost of negotiating that contract. In higher education, weakening or eliminating the right to collect these fees would undermine unions’ strength and our ability to protect academic freedom and shared governance and to fight for economic security.

What’s next? A date has not been set for the Court to hear arguments in Friedrichs, and we can’t say for sure when the court will make its decision, but one thing is clear: we can and must act now. We are only as strong as our members, and the best defense against an unfavorable outcome is a union with strong membership.  Building our membership sends a signal to our campus administrations that we are ready to fight for our unions, for collective bargaining, and for higher education. AAUP chapters across the country have already begun organizing and building membership. We’re doing what our union members always done: asking our colleagues to take a stand, and join the AAUP. 

If your chapter would like assistance with your organizing efforts, please contact Jamie Owen Daniel, director of organizing, at jdaniel@aaup.org.

In Solidarity,
Howard Bunsis, Chair
AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress
Rudy Fichtenbaum, President
The AAUP-CBC supports unionization as the most effective means for academic employees to protect shared governance and academic freedom, to uphold professional standards and values, and to promote higher education as an investment in our common future. Visit the AAUP-CBC website andFacebook. Follow us on Twitter.