By JoAnne Powers, February 24, 2016
The First Circuit Federal Court of Appeals this month confirmed a lower district verdict dismissing the Massachusetts case of D’Agostinao versus Baker, in which a handful of early childcare education workers insisted they shouldn’t have to support the costs of bargaining by the union that had won them major victories. Jason Stephany is Spokesperson for the Massachusetts Union of Human Service Workers and Educators, SEIU Local 509:
[Jason Stephany]: “Basically, what they argued, with the help of the National Right To Work Committee, was that they should not be required to pay union dues. Despite the fact that the union represented them in contract negotiations, despite the fact that the union had won significant rate increases for the first time in decades, had won millions of dollars in investments in affordable childcare, these individuals, through their anti-union stance, believed that they should not be obligated to pay for any of that, but simultaneously believed that the union should be required to represent them and that they should benefit from those contract gains.”
The D’Agostino case has been overshadowed by a similar attack on union fair share fees, Friedrichs v. the California Teachers Association, currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. The union is likely to have gotten a reprieve in that case as a result of the death of ultra-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. Should the now-ideologically split court vote in a tie, a lower-court ruling supporting the union will stand.
[Jason Stephany]: “That case really hung on freedom of association. This case was different. It really hinged on the fact that because these early childhood educators are essentially quasi-state workers…their compensation comes directly from the state…that any entity that had exclusive representation rights would be a violation of their ability to petition their government. Basically they’re saying that by having a union, that barred them from approaching their own individual legislators and talking to them about concerns they may have. Obviously, that was just a ridiculous argument.”
Stephany says the lawsuit was never actually about the right to petition:
[Jason Stephany]: “This was about rolling back the significant gains that have been made through unionization in Massachusetts, simply because they don’t agree that unions should exist. This is not an isolated incident. This is a coordinated effort by the National Right To Work Committee and other anti-union forces, who are filing very similar lawsuits in states across the country, a coordinated attack on working families in the United States of America, and it is funded by wealthy billionaires and the corporations that they run, and it’s not hard to see whose interests they represent. So it’s no surprise that the overall aim is to roll back workers’ rights, roll back worker protections and roll back the gains that working families have been able to make over the last several decades.”