Weekly Update: We Can't Back Down

We Can’t Back Down

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States voted 4-4 on Friedrichs V. California Teachers Association , a case which had the potential to severely impact unions across the country. The tied vote refers Friedrichs back to the lower court's decision, which is to uphold the practice of collecting agency/fair share fees.  In short, this means that the highest court in the land has affirmed the right of working people to stand together as unions. 

This is a short-term victory, and with attacks on working people and unions coming at us on the ballot, and beyond, we cannot see yesterday’s vote as grounds for our movement to relax.  It’s clear that we can’t back down.

At the national level, in response to significant victories that come as a result of working people standing together - like an increased minimum wage - wealthy extremists are continuing their multi-front battle against working families. There are dozens of cases like Friedrichs that are still working their way through the lower courts, with new lawsuits filed in Washington, Oregon and New York in February alone. It’s more important than ever that workers continue to stand together and fight to improve the quality of life for all Oregon families and communities. To make sure we hold on to the victories we’ve won — and to keep winning for working people — Oregon’s union movement must stand against the anti-worker initiatives filed this year, as well as any other attack that comes our way.


While these attacks continue, these same wealthy special interests who failed today in the Courts are moving to the ballot in Oregon.  More than seven different anti-worker ballot measures have been filed in Oregon for the November 2016 election in an attempt to stop the success we have all had together in increasing pay and benefits for working people.

Here is a roundup of statements and responses to yesterday’s vote:

Statement from a coalition of Oregon unions, including the Oregon AFL-CIO

“Wealthy special interests know that when working families come together and form unions, we make major gains for all people.  In Oregon, we have increased the minimum wage, established paid sick days, and fought for higher standards for workplace safety. These changes improve the quality of life for all Oregon families.

 These victories for Oregonians interfere with the agendas of millionaires and billionaires like the Koch brothers. In response, special interest groups attack working people by trying to undermine our ability to organize. In addition to the dozens of federal cases that have been filed by corporate-funded special interests, attacks on workers continue to come through the legislature and through the ballot. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court handed these special interests a major setback as an equally divided Court affirmed a lower court decision to protect workers’ rights in Friedrichs vs. the California Teachers Association.

 While we applaud the Supreme Court’s decision, we know that it will not stop the anti-worker agenda. The same wealthy special interests who failed today in the Courts are moving to the ballot in Oregon. More than seven different anti-worker ballot measures have been filed in Oregon for the November 2016 election in an attempt to roll back the success we have all shared in increasing pay and benefits for working families. People across the state are standing up in numbers we haven’t seen in decades, so they can improve their lives and their communities — and no court case or ballot measure will stop this movement. The fight for better wages, better benefits and safer working conditions for Oregon’s working families will continue.”

Statement from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka

“Today, working people have persevered in the face of another attack on our rights. All over the country working people are showing that we won’t allow wealthy special interests or their politicians to stand in our way to join collectively and make workplaces better all across America. In the face of these attacks we are more committed than ever to ensuring that everyone has the right to speak up together for a better life.”

Statement from AFT President Randi Weingarten

“Millions of working people who understand the importance of their unions in bettering their lives and the wellbeing of their communities are breathing a sigh of relief today. Even so, we know this fight is far from over. Just as our opponents won’t stop coming after us, we will continue full speed ahead in our effort to mobilize our members and their neighbors around a shared vision to reclaim the promise of America. While we wait for Senate Republicans to do their job and appoint a new justice to the Court, we’re working hard for the future we want to see—one with vibrant public education from pre-K through college; affordable, accessible healthcare; public services that support strong neighborhoods, and the right to organize and bargain for a fair wage and a voice on the job.”

Statement from AFSCME President Lee Saunders

“AFSCME members are more resolved than ever to band together and stand up to future attempts to silence the voices of working families. As public service workers learn more about the Friedrichs case, they are shocked to hear about such a political attack through the Supreme Court, and more motivated than ever to step up, get involved, and organize. It’s never been clearer that our most basic rights are at stake.”


Stop Funding Hate

Click here to sign a petition to urge the Murdock Charitable Trust to immediately end all funding for organizations that actively undermine our Northwest values of mutual respect, inclusiveness and tolerance.

While many of the groups funded by the Murdock Charitable Trust are valuable organizations that provide critical services to our communities, we have been deeply troubled to learn of the growing list of extremist, intolerant organizations also funded by the Trust.

Recipients of the trust include a variety of blatantly anti-LGBT groups as well as the Freedom Foundation, an extremist organization that has launched an all-out assault on working families in Oregon and Washington state. The Freedom Foundation is also funded by out of state billionaires who want to keep wages low, eliminate paid sick leave, and slash crucial funding for quality education.

In other news related to the Freedom Foundation, 30 Washington State Senators and Representatives are asking Secretary of State Kim Wyman, the WA Public Disclosure Commission, and Attorney General Bob Ferguson to take a closer look at the political activities of the so-called “charity,” raising serious questions about the Freedom Foundation’s compliance with state laws.  Similar efforts are underway here in Oregon. 


57 Years

After 57 years, the US Labor Department has finally closed a loophole favoring union busters. An article in the Los Angeles Times explains what’s going on:

“Limitations on employers' activities exist, theoretically, but they've been enforced only spottily and are rife with loopholes. The Dept. of Labor finally has moved to close one loophole, created way back in 1959. This is the ability to hire anti-union consultants, familiarly known as "persuaders," without reporting the arrangements. The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, otherwise known as the Landrum-Griffin Act, required these deals to be reported only if the consultants were speaking directly with employees, but not if their influence reached the workplace floor indirectly, via intermediaries.”


 Save the Date for Summer School 

Mark your calendar for July 29-31, 2016 in Eugene! 

The 2016 AFL-CIO Summer School, hosted by the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon, will focus on how we build strong unions and a strong movement for social change. 

Join us for workshops on:

  • Steward Skills
  • Workplace Organizing
  • Labor History

And new this year:

  • Community strategies for winning affordable housing;
  • Inspiring members through music, art, and grassroots digital story telling;
  • Tools to address racial and gender justice.

Join us for elevated conversations about equity and inclusion, both in our unions and in our communities.

Workshop choices, descriptions, and registration information will be available with the full program brochure late April, 2016 on the LERC website.

Summer School Information:

Leigh Roberts
Phone: 541-346-2781
Email: lroberts@uoregon.edu