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Nurses Protest at SCOTUS Case on Union Representation Fees in Calif.

On Monday, nurses protested over a Supreme Court case challenging public unions' right to require representation fees from certain employees, the Sacramento Bee reports (Sacramento Bee, 1/11).

National Nurses United said the case, which began in California, could have negative effects for the health care industry.

Background

In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, 10 public school teachers in the state are challenging public unions' right to require representation fees from employees who receive representation benefits, including:

  • Higher wages;
  • Improved benefits; and
  • Safer working conditions.

Nurses Raise Concerns About Case

According to Becker's Hospital Review, a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could weaken government employee unions' financial strength and political standing.

As such, NNU said the case poses a "significant threat to public health, safety and quality of life."

NNU member Martese Chism, a Chicago registered nurse, said, "As nurses, our ability to have a collective voice for our patients is critical," adding, "Without the support of our union, nurses have little protection to speak out and challenge unsafe staffing or other eroding patient care conditions that happen all too often in our hospitals" (Murphy, Becker's Hospital Review, 1/8).

Meanwhile, San Diego RN Rebecca Well said, "Through our union, every day we advocate for patient safety, we advocate in the community for funding of our community hospitals." She added, "The Justices have a decision to make here as to whether they are on the side of nurses and patients or the corporate interests that are funding Friedrichs" (NNU release, 1/8).

Further, Pamela Cipriano, president of the American Nurses Association, said, "The stakes for both RNs and the patients they care for are high," noting, "The right to bargain collectively for better wages and benefits, and for safe working conditions that protect both RNs and patients is at risk" (ANA release, 1/11).

Court Likely To Strike Down Fees

On Monday, the Supreme Court's conservative majority -- including Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy -- indicated that the justices likely would strike down the mandatory union fees debated in the case.

Chief Justice John Roberts said, "The problem that's before us is whether or not individuals can be compelled to support political views that they disagree with."

The more liberal justices noted that striking down such fees could affect more than 7.2 million unionized public employees.

Justice Stephen Breyer added that such a decision "would require overruling a host of other cases" and called a potential ruling against the fees "a big deal" (Sacramento Bee, 1/11).

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