San Francisco elected officials and labor groups on Wednesday condemned a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibits mandatory fees for nonmembers of public worker unions to help pay for the costs of collective bargaining.
Twenty-two states including California allow such fees, which are less than union dues and may not be used for political activities. Unions are required to represent all workers whether or not they are union members.
The high court majority ruling in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees said the fees violate the constitutional First Amendment right of free speech.
Registered nurses with the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United rallied at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center in response to the decision, saying it posed a threat to patient safety, worker and community health and economic standards.
The nurses unions called for Congress and state legislators to act to protect the rights of workers and unions, saying the decision was part of a larger push to remove opposition to protections on public health and safety, environmental pollution and workplace standards.
NNU Co-President Deborah Burger called the decision “a gift to billionaires, corporate executives and far right lobbying groups that have worked for years to destroy worker rights and unions.
The San Francisco Labor Council also criticised the decision, saying “California needs strong unions to stand up to the rich and powerful who rig the economy against workers, and workers aren’t about to let these corporate billionaires turn back the clock on all the progress we’ve made.” The group planned to hold a rally at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Union Square.
San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell vowed to work to maintain worker protections locally.
“Despite the disappointing news today, I am here to say, unequivocally, that San Francisco will always remain a strong union City and I will continue to support our brothers and sisters in the labor movement,” Farrell said. “Labor literally helped build this city and our union members have long been on the frontlines fighting for civil rights, justice and equality. We will never forget that—the labor movement is part of our City’s DNA.”
House Democratic Leader and San Francisco Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi said the decision threatened the “freedom and basic rights of more than 17 million public workers.”
“The Court’s decision to reverse decades of precedent will have drastic, destructive and long-lasting impacts on all hard-working Americans’ good-paying jobs, wages, health care, retirement and workplace conditions,” Pelosi said.
-Bay City News contributed to this report