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ALBANY — July 2018 The U.S. Supreme Court recently sided with corporate interests and the wealthy in its Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 decision, overturning the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education case that allowed public-sector unions to collect agency fees. Specifically, the court, in a 5-4 decision handed down on June 27, agreed with the plaintiff’s argument that requiring public-sector workers who opt not to join a union to pay fair-share fees violates the First Amendment. The plaintiff, Illinois state employee Mark Janus, objected to paying the fees on the grounds that he disagrees with unions. However, the case really isn’t about Janus, but about the well-funded, anti-union groups who are attacking working people and the rights and benefits we have fought for and won.
The U.S. Supreme Court today sided with powerful CEOs, billionaires and corporate special interests against public service workers and everyday working people in the case Janus v. AFSCME Council 31. Despite their unprecedented political attack to use the highest court in the land to do their bidding, their efforts won’t work because AFSCME members are more committed than ever before to stick together.
There’s just one glaring problem: It seems even Janus doesn’t agree with his corporate backers’ shaky legal arguments.
At a breakfast with reporters last month, Janus threw those handlers into a frenzy after veering off script. As Politico reported, he told the crowd that “collective bargaining is beneficial to people and workers.” He should know — he’s enjoyed the sizable benefits of a union contract for years.
Then why join this attack on a union that fights every day for his economic security? When pressed by reporters, he admitted that he joined the case because he didn’t want his union fees to be spent supporting Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
But already under the law, not one cent of his money can be used to support a candidate’s political campaign. Period. An employee has been able to opt out of such spending for decades.
A sharply divided court could be poised to overturn a 40-year-old Supreme Court decision that would further undermine an already shrinking union movement.
Attorneys for Mark Janus, a child support specialist for the state of Illinois, argue that people like Janus, who choose not to join a union, shouldn’t be compelled to pay partial union fees. The union argues that he should because he benefits from collective bargaining negotiations. The Supreme Court agreed in 1977, but that could change with the new conservative tilt of the court.
When a decision is reached, expected in June, all eyes will be on Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was uncharacteristically quiet in Monday’s proceedings. He asked no questions and is likely to be the deciding vote, given that the other justices split 4 to 4 in a similar case in 2016. That case was decided just after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, and the balance didn’t seem to change Monday.
“You’re basically arguing, do away with unions,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued at one point in questioning the attorney for the National Right to Work Legal Foundation, William Messenger.
These articles from our CSEA WorkForce newspaper we all receive at home. Here is the link for the full issue online. Please see page 4, 5 and 10 & 11 regarding the Janus vs AFSCME Supreme Court case.
We all Need to Belong to Stay Strong.
As oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 grow nearer, CSEA continues to work to build our union through one-on-one conversations with all of our members.
Our job will become much more difficult if the plaintiffs prevail in this case, which examines the constitutionality of the 1977 decision Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.
Abood, like Janus, examined whether public employees should be required to pay an agency or “fair share” fee to help cover the costs of negotiating contracts, handling grievances and defending workers facing disciplinary action.
When the U.S. Supreme Court decides Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 later this year, it is likely that the public sector in the United States will become “right-to-work.”
Right-to-work supporters claim that it would bring workers increased “freedom” and “choice” in belonging to a union.
It’s actually an attack on working people and our freedom to join together in strong unions.
What is right-to-work?
Under Right-to-Work laws, it is illegal for unions to collect fair share fees or agency fees. Employees in unionized workplaces are not required to join a union, nor are they required to pay for union representation. While the corporate interests who support right-to-work claim that they are working to protect your personal rights, make no mistake about their true intention: they want to destroy unions — and your rights.
A ruling allowing workers to refuse to pay the fees would be the culmination of a decades-long campaign by conservative groups aimed at weakening unions that represent public employees.