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Ohio Union Leader: SCOTUS Ruling Blow to Middle Class

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a 1977 ruling that found unions can collect fees for non-political work that benefits all workers. (Pixabay)
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a 1977 ruling that found unions can collect fees for non-political work that benefits all workers. (Pixabay)
June 28, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision Wednesday that will likely deliver a financial blow to public employee unions – and some groups say Ohio working families also will suffer.

In a 5-to-4 vote, the high court ruled that non-union workers can't be forced to pay so-called fair share fees to help cover the costs of collective bargaining and other work carried out by public sector unions.

The decision is widely viewed as a defeat to unions representing government workers nationwide.

But Becky Higgins, president of the Ohio Education Association, says the implications are much broader.

"The middle class is what has made this country, the United States, great, so any weakening of unions is going to mean that that middle class is not going to have the same rights and protections and pathways that the generations before enjoyed," she states.

The court overturned a 1977 ruling that found unions can collect fees for non-political work that benefits all workers.

Opponents of fair share laws say it's a win for workers who don't want to be forced to pay for political speech they disagree with, and they maintain the decision will create more choice in the workplace.

Heidi Shierholz, a former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, points out it's already illegal for fair share fees to be used for political activities.

And she says giving workers a choice about paying their share of costs associated with negotiating higher wages, benefits and filing workplace grievances is likely to produce what she calls a "free ride" effect.

"Even if they value it highly, they may be unwilling to pay the dues, and that will starve the union of resources and will hurt the ability of the union to provide crucial services,” she states. “The real goal is to actually starve the unions to reduce their effectiveness."

Despite the ruling, Higgins says the OEA will continue fighting for health care and adequate wages for members, and for the tools and resources students need to succeed in school and life.

"The intent was to silence our voices, weaken our unions,” she asserts. “That's not going to happen. We are here, we're not going away, and we're going to continue to fight for our students."

Reporting by Ohio News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH