The U.S. labor movement today faces perhaps the gravest threat to its existence since the creation of our modern system of labor law and collective bargaining in 1935.
In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, now before the U.S. Supreme Court, the plaintiffs challenge the “fair share” requirement that public-sector workers in unionized jobs who choose not to join their union must still pay their fair share of the cost of union representation and services.
They argue that agency fees should be abolished because money is speech, and requiring nonmembers to pay fees to unions therefore violates their First Amendment rights. That is patently false. Agency-fee payers can choose not to have their fees spent on unions’ political activities.
Let us be clear: Friedrichs isn’t about the First Amendment; it is about undermining this country’s labor unions because we are the last great defenders of working people and the middle class. The far-right forces behind the lawsuit despise unions because it is our collective voice and collective action that prevent them from further enriching themselves at ordinary Americans’ expense. They don’t just want to abolish agency fees; they want to abolish our unions and undo the decades of progress we have made.
Let us be clear: Mulgrew's upset not because Friedrichs threatens to undermine the "last great defenders of working people and the middle class" in this country but because it threatens to undermine the gravy train that the current leadership of the AFT/UFT/NYSUT ride on.
The AFT/UFT/NYSUT leadership stopped defending the rank and file years ago, have sold us out at every turn to the education reformers, are complicit in much of the harm done to the teaching profession (including the use of VAM, which AFT President Weingarten once championed along with Chancellor Joel Klein when Weingarten was UFT President, and teacher evaluations tied to test scores, which UFT President Mulgrew happily agreed to in 2012), and exist simply to aggrandize their own egos and enrich their own purses.
With the Friedrichs decision looming, you'd think the AFT/UFT/NYSUT leadership would become more responsive to rank and file, especially since they might have to beg members to stay with the union and continue to pay dues post-Friedrichs.
But instead, they continue to do whatever the hell they want, from endorsing Hillary Clinton long before the presidential primary season started to telling New York State legislators who voted for Cuomo's poison pill budget that imposed a receivership law for "failing" schools and upped test scores to 50% of a teacher's evaluation that it was all right for doing so.
And they spend their time attacking critics to their leadership, as happened this past week when NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta asked the NY attorney general to look into a blog post written by a teacher that dared to criticize NYSUT for selling members out.
Quite frankly, I see the words someone wrote that Mike Mulgrew signed his name to about Friedrichs and I roll my eyes because I know that they know that they don't give a shit about any of the stuff Mulgrew says he does.
Al they care about is maintaining power, maintaining control, and maintaining the gravy train.
It's a shame they're not taking the Friedrichs threat seriously and thinking about ways to become more responsive and responsible union leaders.
Alas, it seems that the leadership of the AFT/UFT/NYSUT is incapable of that.