Edie Brous
Nurse Attorney
118 East 28th Street
Room 404
New York, NY 10016
Tel. (212) 989-5469
Fax. (646) 349-5355

Web Site:

the american association of nurse attorneys logo
On January 11, 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard oral arguments in a case called Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association. A decision is expected in June of this year and nurses have an interest in the outcome. The plaintiffs in the Freidrichs case are seeking to overturn a 1977 case called Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education.

In Abood, SCOTUS held that public employees can be charged an agency or fair share fee by unions even if they don’t join the union. Non-union employees still benefit from collective bargaining efforts and the fee is to cover the union’s costs. The fees avoid “free-riders” – employees who benefit from the union’s work but do not pay for it. In Friedrichs, teachers are arguing that Abood should be overruled and the fees struck down.

The Friedrichs plaintiffs argue that being compelled to pay a fee violates First Amendment rights of the non-union members. Defendants argue that the fee serves an important interest in providing adequate funding for union representation.

The implications for nurses are important. Nursing unions are responsible for bettering working conditions for nurses in both union and non-union settings. Non-union employers must offer competitive salaries and benefits. They have only provided experience differential, staffing ratios, shared governance, seniority job security, and protection from wrongful termination, etc. because they had to compete with union facilities that did offer those benefits. It is the unions, whether nurses belong to one or not, that have driven improvements for all nurses. We owe better pay and safer working conditions to unions. We owe health care and retirement benefits, continuing education days, paid vacations, family leave, progressive discipline, internships, overtime pay, civil rights protections, unemployment insurance and much, much more to unions.

The outcome of this case can have consequences for current and future collective bargaining agreements that nurses have with their employers. So much of what we take for granted or assume to be our rights as workers has come from the struggles of people who fought and sometimes died to create our ability to bargain collectively. Regardless of our ideological or political views, we owe it to them to follow this case.

Here are resources for further reading:
Bar Admissions:
  • New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania
  • Southern and Eastern Districts New York Federal Courts
  • United States Supreme Court
Attorney Advertising
This newsletter is intended to provide general information for educational purposes only.  It does not serve as a substitute for legal advice.  If you need legal assistance engage the services of an attorney in your state.  Subscription to this newsletter does not create an attorney/client relationship.
Copyright © 2016, Edie Brous, RN, Esq.