by Félix Pérez/image above of Jennifer Bado-Aleman by Patrick Ryan
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Maya Walker, a high school library technician from Hayward, Calif., stood on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday morning to deliver the response of teachers, education support professionals and public service workers to a legal challenge of the rights of public service employees: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association is a lawsuit promoted and supported by big corporations and the wealthy to limit the ability of educators, firefighters, police officers, nurses and other people who serve the public to stand together at work.
Walker was joined by educators and other workers as the Supreme Court heard arguments in the Friedrichs lawsuit, which seeks to dismantle long-standing rules whereby workers who don’t want to join a union don’t have to but instead pay a reduced Fair Share fee to cover the cost of bargaining and representation that the union is legally required to provide. If the court bans fair share, it will be will harder for teachers and educators to come together at work and stand up for their students. It will also be more difficult for teachers, firefighters, nurses and social workers to negotiate for decent wages and benefits and make sure their communities have jobs that support their families.
The court is expected to issue its decision in June.
“This lawsuit threatens our ability to advocate collectively for the needs of our students and our schools,” said Walker, a second-generation educator. “I’m here today to say fair share works and has for long time. Friedrichs is nothing more than corporate interests out to tilt the economy further in favor of the wealthy and corporations. This lawsuit is all about doing away with the most effective voice for teachers and other workers — unions.”
Jennifer Bado-Aleman said she attended the Supreme Court event out of concern for the economically disadvantaged students who drew her to teaching. A high school English teacher in Gaithersburg, Md., Bado-Aleman, National Board Certified, said, “It’s important to keep in mind that the working conditions educators bargain for together are students’ learning conditions. I’m concerned Friedrichs would weaken our ability to speak with one voice.” Bado-Aleman said she worries about the consequences that eliminating the fair share rules would have on students with the greatest need. “I’m here today because I believe that having a strong union for educators ensures a strong education system for our students.”
Educators nationwide were among the more than 100,00 people who signed a petition urging the Center for Individual Rights, a law firm bankrolled by the pro-private school voucher Bradley Foundation, to respect the rights of educators, nurses, first responders and other public service employees. The Center for Individual Rights filed the Friedrichs lawsuit. The Bradley Foundation, described as “perhaps the largest right wing funding foundation in America” and known for its close ties to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the Koch brothers’s donor networks, is the Center for Individual Rights’ single largest source of financial support.
Kindergarten and first-grade teacher Reagan Duncan said the lawsuit is about “large corporations and corporate CEOs tilting the economy even more in favor of the wealthy. They are not concerned about my students, public education or my right to join with other educators to speak out for students.” Duncan, who teaches at a high-poverty school in Vista, Calif., said:
I’ve seen, firsthand, that my voice is heard through the collective bargaining process, and the results ensure our students have the quality public schools they deserve right in their own backyards. The Friedrichs case threatens to do away with my colleagues’ and my ability to stand up for our students and come up with ways to improve their learning conditions. After coming such a long way, it would be a travesty to lose those rights that ensure our students have the tools they need to succeed today and tomorrow.