Labor unions are the democratic backbone of this nation in terms of attaining a living wage and acquiring workers’ rights. They’ve had a long history in this country, often struggling to wield power because of their lack of support from pro-business politicians. In recent years, they have gained significant strength in advocating for workers and laborers, particularly in the public sector.
Unions are responsible for pushing for higher wages, earning benefits and fighting for more flexible hours and better terms for the workers they’re representing. They represent a variety of workers, including teachers, firefighters and police officers, many of whom are middle-class. In more than 20 states, including Massachusetts, unions have the authority to charge nonmembers union fees to cover expenses that go into collective bargaining. Without the fees, unions would struggle to be as effective as they are today.
On Monday, the Supreme Court heard from a child support specialist who claims that paying such fees infringes upon his right to free speech, arguing that he shouldn’t be required to financially support a union that gets involved in lobbying and other political activity.
The high court ruled on the issue of non-union membership fees in 2016, resulting in a 4-4 deadlock decision. But with Trump’s appointment of Neal Gorsuch as a Supreme Court Justice to replace former Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court looks likely to rule against the states’ requirement for non-union members to pay fees. Boston union workers protested for strong unions Monday, joined by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Martin Walsh.
The fees paid by non-members is an essential source of income for unions and the important work they conduct. Unions play an instrumental role in ensuring that workers are paid fair wages. They shouldn’t have to face these kinds of financial concerns. It’s impossible to completely squash the idea of workers assembling together to be treated equitably and with decent pay. The ability to have unions stems from the tradition of democratic values in this country, and no one wants that privilege taken away from them, especially at this point of political turmoil.
People who don’t see the point of paying union dues do not understand the full extent of the services unions provide. If — or more accurately — when the Supreme Court decides to rule against non-members paying union fees, those working in the public sector will certainly feel the effects. In the long-run, the negative effects this move will have on unions are far worse than the dues non-members currently pay.
Paying relatively small expenses to support unions is a reasonable thing to request of workers for these services that directly or indirectly grant them their way of life. In states like Massachusetts‚ where the cost of living is high, active unions are a crucial ingredient for the formation of the middle class. For workers who work on minimum wage, these unions also serve as an opportunity for economic mobility.
The political ties some of these unions may hold offends some non-members who pay dues but who don’t share similar views. This is understandable, but part of the unions’ success is their ability to influence policies that affect them. Unions should be granted a voice — which means ensuring they can effectively fund themselves.