by Félix Pérez/image courtesy of Matt Schilder
The Koch Brothers, ALEC and their secretive network of interconnected boardrooms and front groups have plotted for years to strip teachers, education support professionals, health care employees and other public sector workers of their rights in the workplace. That explains why, at the moment, they have their eyes fixed on the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected as early as next week to issue a ruling that could undermine the rights and protections of all workers.
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The case in dispute is Harris v. Quinn. Originating in Illinois, the lawsuit was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which has two staff attorneys who are identified on the group’s website as “Koch Associates.” The billionaire Koch Brothers in 2012 alone spent $122 million on politics to benefit their business interests at the expense of working families.
The Koch’s’ main political organization, Americans for Prosperity, has waged a war against increasing the minimum wage. The group has also put its massive budget toward supporting tax cuts for the wealthy, weakening Medicare and workplace safety rules, opposing unemployment insurance and bankrolling the Tea Party.
The central issue driving Harris v. Quinn is the principle of “fair share,” a mechanism by which all workers equitably share the cost of maintaining union-negotiated protections and benefits. The Koch Brothers, ALEC and their allies have long claimed, contrary to established law, that fair share fees are used for political activities.
Labor scholars and analysts say the legal challenges to fair share are aimed at amassing political power.
John Logan, director of San Francisco State University’s labor studies program, in response to a fair share lawsuit in California (Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association), told the Huffington Post:
The purpose of the legal challenge is not to protect the rights of individual employees. The real purpose is to diminish the political voice of public-sector unions.
For its part, ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, often pursues a parallel track with the Koch Brothers in seeking to silence the voice of workers. A “bill mill” that pairs corporate lobbyists with politicians to vote behind closed doors on model bills, ALEC, funded in part by Charles and David Koch, has helped the Kochs pass anti-worker and school privatization legislation in state after state. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, the “Kochs’ mistrust of public education can be traced to their father, Fred, who ranted and raved that the National Education Association was a communist group and public school books were filled with ‘communist propaganda.’ ”
Through model legislation, ALEC helps the Koch Brothers and like-minded corporations limit the rights of teachers, firefighters, police and other public workers through “right to work” legislation and the elimination of fair share.
Harris v. Quinn involves a challenge to an Illinois statute that allows a union selected by home-care workers to collect a fair share fee from all the workers in the union.