City stands behind labor unions as best way to serve the public
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.
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On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Friedrichs v.
Late last year, I authorized the Honolulu Corporation Counsel to join an amici curiae (friend of the court) brief that explains why having city workers represented by active unions serves the interests of cities themselves.
The plaintiff in this case, Friedrichs, argues that even though they receive salary and health benefits from the union agreements, non-union members should not have to pay fees.
This simply is not fair.
I believe the city and all other government organizations with unionized workforces, including those with non-members, benefit from labor and management working together to improve the efficient delivery of municipal services.
By working together, we can find ways of serving the city’s taxpayers more effectively, at lower cost, such as by reducing employee turnover and overtime expenses, and by identifying situations in which the city can more cost-effectively perform work in-house.
Stable unions that are familiar with the city’s functions and resources make this possible.
An example of this is mentioned in the brief:
The city and the Hawaii Government Employees Association negotiated an agreement that created a “multi-skilled” worker class where employees were trained to do multiple blue collar tasks. Previously, separate blue collar classes (e.g., carpenters, pipefitters, heavy equipment operators) were assigned to jobs.
Through this negotiation, employees were cross-trained to perform several different jobs, which reduced the need to send staff from different trades and overtime costs. The employees also benefitted by receiving an increase in pay for assuming new duties.
Friedrichs is asking the Supreme Court to overturn two court decisions: a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education; and a 1992 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case, Mitchell v. Los Angeles Unified School District.
In the Abood case, the U.S. Supreme Court said it is constitutional if public employees are required to contribute funds to a particular union, even if non-union members may not agree with the union on certain issues.
In the Mitchell case, the Ninth Circuit determined that the First Amendment does not require non-union members to “opt-in” to pay fees equal to the full amount of union dues.
A decision to overrule Abood and Mitchell would seriously harm the interests of the city. It would destabilize existing collective bargaining contracts by forcing renegotiation of those contracts.
Under Hawaii’s Constitution, public employees have the right to organize for the purposes of collective bargaining.
While public employees also have the right to refrain from self-organization for the purposes of collective bargaining, they are required to have a payroll deduction equivalent to regular dues remitted to the exclusive bargaining unit.
There is an exception based on religious belief; in that case, the dues are donated to a nonprofit organization of the employee’s choosing. This constitutional provision and exception are fair and should be allowed to stand.
The City and County of Honolulu employs more than 8,000 people. By working together, the city’s administration and its employees, through representation by their unions, can create a healthy, positive working environment that results in the efficient delivery of services to the public.
ON THE NET: The full
amici curiae brief is at 808ne.ws/1S989Pe.