Remember Wisconsin and the anti-union measures Republican Governor Scott Walker rammed through the state legislature? Last week, the attack on teachers and other public employees escalated to the Supreme Court, with the controversial case, Friedrichs vs. the California Teachers Association.
Friedrichs has significant financial and political implications for the PAT because it challenges the right of public sector unions like ours to bargain for and collect 'fair share' or 'agency' fees from non-members. The legal precedent for 'fair share' has been in place for nearly forty years, but everything could change if the court reverses its earlier stance.
By law, all professional educators enjoy the benefits and protections of our contract, and PAT must provide representation to both members and non-members alike. Because of the benefits non-members enjoy and our union's obligation to represent everyone, the courts have sanctioned the practice of requiring non-members to contribute to PAT for the work we do on their behalf. In our union, we collect annual dues from both members and non-members, though fair share fee payers can request a refund for the percentage of dues not used for representation and collective bargaining.
But if the court rules against the union in Friedrichs, non-members would no longer be required to contribute anything to PAT. Moreover our union would have to refund the fees we collected from non-members over the past two years.
If we do nothing, this could cost PAT hundreds of thousands of dollars in the near term and do far more damage long term as it opens the door for many more educators to skip out on paying dues and opt for a "free ride". This is why deep-pocketed corporate interests and conservative activists like the Koch brothers are backing Friedrichs. They're betting it will weaken public sector unions like PAT financially, and erode unity by pitting members against non-members.
We need everyone's help to address this serious threat to our union and our profession!
At the beginning of the year, we launched a membership drive to encourage every non-member to join PAT. If you haven't already, talk to your building organizer or building representative, review the list of non-members in your building, and then ask them to join! I've talked to too many educators who see money coming out of their check and don't realize they're not full members. We need to sign every one of them up.
Second, we need you to get involved and stay active in PAT. Wisconsin shows us that unions can remain strong in the kind of 'right-to-work' environment Friedrichs will create, but only if members are active and engaged.
Remember our last bargain? Whether it was wearing blue, or sending postcards to the school board, or marching across the Burnside Bridge, most members did something -- and many of you did a lot -- to stand up for the Schools Portland Students Deserve.
If we're going to avoid fallout from Friedrichs, we'll need to listen to our members and keep organizing. There is plenty to do, whether pushing for 30% more funding through the Better Oregon campaign or continuing our fight for the Schools Portland Students Deserve.