AFSCME’s Enemies Look to the Supreme Court

July 16, 2015

AFSCME’s Enemies Look to the Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Friedrichs v California Teachers Association, a case with the potential to make “right-to-work” the law of the land in the public sector and undermine workers’ right to collectively bargain over wages, benefits and working conditions.

If you've got questions about the case, we've got answers:

Q: What is this case about?

A:  This case is about making Right to Work the law of the land in the entire public sector. If the extremists are successful our right to collectively bargain over wages, benefits and working conditions would be greatly damaged. Since the Supreme Court first spoke on this subject more than 35 years ago, nurses, librarians, corrections officers and other public service workers have been able to work together for better public services and vibrant communities. In other words, Friedrichs is really about reneging on a fundamental promise of America — that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to provide for your family and live a better life – and that those rules shouldn’t just change.

Q: How would our Councils and Locals be affected?

A:  If the Supreme Court overturns the unanimous 1977 Supreme Court decision called Abood v Detroit Board of Education, which upheld the payment of “fair share fees” by nonmembers for their share of the cost of their representation, it would mean that every state in the country would be a “right-to-work” state for all public service employees. But don’t be fooled. This is not really a case about union dues. It’s a case meant to bust the ability of unions to bargain effectively for the workers they represent.

Q. How would workers be affected?

A: The ability of nurses, librarians, emergency first responders and other public service workers to negotiate effectively with their employer would be harmed. On average, workers in Right-to-Work states earn nearly $6,000 less than what workers in strong union states earn.

Q: What happens if the Court rules against us?

A:  This could lead to a severely weakened union and, in turn, lower pay and benefits for workers. That’s why our AFSCME Strong activists are working hard to sign up fair share payers to be full-fledged members.

Q: When is the decision likely to be issued?

A: Legal briefs will be filed through the Fall, and the Court will hear the case on January 11, 2016. A decision could come as early as March or April and as late as June 2016, during the primary election season. It will be a political issue for our enemies, to be sure.

Q: What do we do in the meantime?

A. We step up our AFSCME Strong program to strengthen our union. The AFSCME Strong team created a program for our leadership and entire membership to follow to build our union. We should start by holding one-on-one conversations with members, fee payers and nonmembers across the country and engaging them in fights around issues they care about.

You can start by attending an AFSCME Strong activist training where you will gain organizing skills and develop a plan of action to help your local meet the following goals:

  • Recruit 5 percent of the membership to become fellow AFSCME Strong activists.
  • Engage 80 percent of your membership in one-on-one conversations on what is at stake, and involve them in the fights and activities.
  • Help your local achieve 90 percent union membership in fair share units, 70 percent membership in right-to-work units with collective bargaining, and majority membership in right-to-work units without collective bargaining.
  • Become a PEOPLE MVP contributor and help recruit 10 percent of your local’s membership to contribute.

For more information on getting involved, please contact your council or affiliate and ask for the AFSCME Strong Coordinator or contact Sabeela Ally ( (202 429-1013), who can direct you to the right person.

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