Colleen O’Dea, NJ Spotlight
Union leaders, Democratic lawmakers remain uncowed by decision to strip public-sector unions of right to collect ‘fair-share’ fees from nonmembers who benefit from negotiated contracts
The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a harsh, but not unexpected blow to public-sector unions yeterday, when it ruled that nonunion members cannot be forced to pay fees to them. New Jersey’s public unions, however, are expected to find it somewhat easier to recover, given the enactment last month of the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act.
“Those who choose to give themselves a marginal increase by quitting their union will discover it is the most expensive ‘raise’ they ever get,” said Deepa Kumar, president of the AAUP-AFT at Rutgers University, which represents 8,000 faculty, graduate employees, and counselors. “Since 1970, our union has fought and won workload limits, paid sabbaticals, annual raises, due process in employment disputes, greater equity for faculty of color and women, and so much more. We resolve to stand our ground in a post-Janus environment because our best defense in the face of attacks on tenure, academic freedom, and public higher education is a united academic workforce.”
Reaching out and organizing
Donna M. Chiera, president of the New Jersey AFT, said the union is working to comply with the ruling but also reaching out to members and working to organize new unions. In January, adjunct faculty at Brookdale Community College joined the AFT and Princeton University graduate students are organizing an AFT union on their campus.
“This decision is a momentary triumph for the wealthy special interests who backed this lawsuit,” said Chiera, a retired Perth Amboy teacher whose union represents 30,000 faculty and staff in the state’s public colleges, community colleges, and five school districts. “But the voices of working people will not go unheard … We’re not going anywhere.”