On November 17, 2015, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) joined more than 70 civil and human rights organizations in filing an amicus curiae brief in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a challenge to the Supreme Court’s 1977 ruling in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which affirmed the constitutionality of “fair share” provisions for public sector unions. Oral arguments before the Supreme Court were held on January 11, 2016.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, one of the amicus curiae brief participants, described the critical importance of the case in the following terms: “Because the unions represent everyone in a workplace, these representation fees are a fair way for all employees to contribute to the cost of securing the benefits and protections that the union negotiates for all public employees, whether or not they choose to join the union.”
“For nearly 40 years, Abood’s fair share rule has yielded significant economic opportunities and protections for millions of workers and their families. The brief highlights how unions provide a powerful tool against discrimination and a critical path to the middle class, especially for women, people of color, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers. In every important respect—wages, benefits, work place safety, schedule predictability—unions can and have bargained for greater economic opportunity and equality for all workers. As the brief states, “Put simply, unions have provided a critical path to the middle class for generations of working people, including the nurses, first responders, teachers, and others who comprise the membership of public sector unions.”
“Overturning Abood will have substantial, far-reaching consequences that would particularly harm women, people of color, and LGBT workers. The brief emphasizes that the capacity of a union to effectively bargain and represent all workers—union members and non-members alike—requires a fair share provision to avoid the problem of free riding. Overturning long-standing precedent that enables working people to negotiate together will dramatically weaken public unions and compromise the opportunities and benefits they offer to working Americans.”