The NY Times piece on the oral arguments held today in the Friedrichs vs California Teachers Association case has this headline: "Supreme Court Seems Poised to Deal Unions a Major Setback." The Times is confident we are going to lose the Friedrichs case; Think Progress has that same feeling as their piece has this title: "Public Sector Unions Just Got Brutalized In The Supreme Court."
Add to to this that US Attorney Preet Bharara is not going after Governor Andrew Cuomo for shutting down the Moreland Commission investigating corruption at the state level and this was not a very good day for teachers, public employee unions, workers or the people of New York State.
For all of those hoping the teacher unions will lose the Friedrichs case so people can opt out of the UFT and not have to pay any dues or agency fee, your dream might be coming true. It is definitely not my dream, however, as a weak union with out of touch leadership is better than none and having more members gives us more power if we would only use it. Remember, it is not only about the leadership when it comes to the UFT as the majority of the membership votes them in every three years by just tossing their ballots in the garbage can.
I understand the argument that if we are in a right to work situation where people can opt out of the unions and don't have to pay them any dues, it will force the unions do their jobs and service the members thereby convincing people to remain as dues paying members. Maybe small groups will form in reaction to what the Supreme Court is doing where teachers will pull off a sick-out on their own like Detroit teachers are doing today on other issues.
Unfortunately, the Wisconsin situation where the public employee unions were neutered by Governor Scott Walker is more of a probability for our future. It is not something we want to emulate. Wages and working conditions have suffered out there since Public Law 10 was passed in 2011 to limit public employee union rights. Yes, there were some rebellions in Wisconsin but as this Guardian piece by Steve Greenhouse shows, most employees just ended up resigned to swallow their poison. I fear a similar situation may happen nationally, and particularly in New York, when the Supreme Court makes its decision on the agency fee. People may opt out in droves and leave the union even more powerless than it already is.
Waiting for Justice Scalia or one of the other conservative justices to save us seems like hoping to win that billion dollar power ball jackpot, not very likely. Unions should be fighting back for real now by educating their rank and filers and preparing for real action. That's also not very likely.