Dr. Margaret Flowers: I congratulate organized labor on the recent victory against a serious threat to our public employees. This is a victory for workers and their families who are struggling to provide the basic necessities for themselves. It is a bright light in the dark decades of the assault on organized labor with which the Democratic Party has been complicit.
A 4-4 tie in the U.S. Supreme Court gave public unions a reprieve from a decision that could have weakened them a great deal. The one-sentence order in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association left in place a forty year precedent requiring public workers who do not join the union to contribute to the costs of bargaining if the fees do not go toward political activity. Collective bargaining is essential for protection of wages, benefits and working conditions.
The tie came because of the death of Justice Scalia who would have been a fifth vote against the unions. When Justice Scalia died I described the kind of Supreme Court justice I would like to see put on the court. Rather than former corporate lawyers and prosecutors, the court needs justices who are lawyers with a history of public service. This includes lawyers who work for human rights, protecting the rights of criminal defendants, environmental protection and the rights of workers, among others.
While the Supreme Court decision holds the line for public unions other recent decisions have greatly weakened unions, making it more difficult for workers to organize and fund union activities. The long-term trend of nominating corporate lawyers to serve as justices of the U.S. Supreme Court has resulted in a series of decisions that favor corporate interests over the interests of workers.
It is time for that trend of weakened collective bargaining and other worker rights to be reversed. Unions have been a key to shrinking inequality and ensuring that workers have fair pay, good benefits and safe working conditions. By expanding the rights of workers we will be taking a step toward a more just, fair and equitable economy.
Over the next six years, when Maryland's new U.S. Senator will serve in office, there are likely to be several Supreme Court nominees. This is a tremendous opportunity to create a court that is on the side of people power rather than corporate power. I will stand with workers to fight for their rights.