GoLocalProv: Rhode Island Leaders Split on SCOTUS Union Decision


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday morning that unions cannot force workers who choose not to join to pay dues -- and Rhode Island elected officials and leaders are split on the issue. 

While Congressman David Cicilline called the decision "devastating" and Governor Gina Raimondo decried the "diminishment" of the middle class, Mike Stenhouse with the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity lauded the potential impact on the education community. 

“The American labor movement helped build the strong middle class of our country,” Cicilline said in a statement. “Today, union workers make, on average, 27% more than their non-union counterparts. If we want a strong and growing middle class, we need strong unions.”

“Today, using a stolen Supreme Court seat as the deciding vote, corporate special interests succeeded in overturning four decades of legal precedent that protect the rights of working people," said Cicilline. "This decision is an unprecedented attack on 17.3 million public employees in Rhode Island and across America. Teachers, law enforcement, firefighters, and public works employees are going to find it harder than ever to get ahead."

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, meanwhile, applauded the decision, saying it provides “workplace freedom” for employees by reducing the sway of unions on lawmakers and legislation and allow for improvements to education.

“The greatest public benefit will be improvement in public education," said Stenhouse, the Center's CEO. "Many education reforms that would improve schools in disadvantaged communities are prevented by union collective bargaining agreements. If unions are no longer able to force teachers who disagree with them to fund their bargaining positions, unions will have less power to impose ineffective policies into contracts."

Leaders on Record

The 5-4 decision previously had the court split 4-4 when it was originally taken up following the death of Antonin Scalia. Wednesday’s deciding vote came from Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s conservative nominee.

The ruling overturns a decades-old ruling allowing for “fair share fees” that non-union workers pay, generally because unions say their collective bargaining efforts benefit all employees.

"The labor movement built Rhode Island's middle class. This decision is part of a larger effort to weaken labor and diminish the middle class. With ever-growing income inequality and ideologically driven efforts in Washington to undermine working families, the labor movement is more important now than any other time in recent memory," said Governor Gina Raimondo. "As long as I am Governor, Rhode Island will continue to stand up for the middle class. My team will review this ruling and if any changes are required, we'll make them at the bargaining table with our unions.

Aaron Regunberg, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, calls the decision “a blow to working Americans.”

“Corporate interests have rigged the economy in their favor and they’re working every day to take more and more,” Regunberg said in a statement. “It’s never been more important for us to come together and fight back."

SEIU Local 580, Rhode Island’s Social Service Union, declared that “no court case will stand in our way,” vowing to keep up the fight.

“We need to stand together, united, and fight to keep those things that we truly value in the workplace: fair wages, affordable healthcare, job security, and seniority,” said the union’s president, Kathy McElroy.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter to declare victory, calling the ruling a “big loss for the coffers of the Democrats!”

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