More than 70 Civil and Human Rights Groups File Supreme Court Brief in Collective Bargaining Case

Media 11.17,15

WASHINGTON – More than 70 civil and human rights groups have joined The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Women’s Law Center, and the Human Rights Campaign 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. 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.” (Pg. 3)

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.

“For nearly 40 years, unions have bargained to further opportunity for women, people of color, and LGBT workers,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “At a time of increasing inequality, and when the odds are increasingly in favor of the wealthy and against the American worker, we urge the Court to adhere to its own precedent and reaffirm Abood so that unions representing all public sector workers, both members and non-members, may continue to effectively bargain for vital workplace benefits and protections.”

Click here for a PDF of the brief.

A full list of signers is below:

  • 9to5, National Association of Working Women
  • Alliance for a Just Society
  • Alliance for Justice (AFJ)
  • Alliance for Retired Americans
  • American Association of University Women (AAUW)
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Asian American Justice Center 
  • Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance
  • Atlanta Women for Equality
  • Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice
  • California Women Lawyers
  • Caring Across Generations
  • Center for Community Change
  • Center for Law and Social Policy
  • Center for Popular Democracy
  • Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues
  • Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
  • Coalition on Human Needs
  • Connecticut Citizen Action Group
  • Courage Campaign
  • Demos
  • Disciples Home Missions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada
  • Equal Rights Advocates
  • Family Values @ Work
  • Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD)
  • Good Jobs First
  • Human Rights Campaign
  • In the Public Interest
  • Interfaith Worker Justice
  • Jobs with Justice
  • The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement
  • The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
  • The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • Legal Momentum
  • The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF)
  • National Action Network (NAN)
  • NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
  • National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
  • National Black Justice Coalition
  • National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)
  • National Center for Transgender Equality
  • The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP)
  • The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM)
  • National Consumers League 
  • National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW)
  • National Domestic Workers Alliance
  • National Employment Law Project (NELP)
  • National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA)
  • National Immigration Law Center (NILC)
  • National LGBTQ Task Force
  • The National Organization for Women (NOW) Foundation
  • National Partnership for Women & Families
  • National People’s Action (NPA)
  • National Urban League 
  • National Women’s Law Center
  • National Workrights Institute
  • The Partnership for Working Families
  • People for the American Way Foundation (PFAWF)
  • The Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI)
  • Pride at Work
  • The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
  • Sierra Club 
  • Southwest Women’s Law Center
  • The Union for Reform Judaism
  • United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS)
  • URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity
  • USAction
  • West Virginia Citizen Action Group
  • Women Employed
  • Women’s Law Center of Maryland, Inc.
  • Women’s Law Project

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit