|I don’t write emails to our full membership and activist community often, but the Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court case warrants it.
The case is challenging the 45-year-old precedent that 23 states have used to determine wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of public employees’ jobs. As the Illinois solicitor general eloquently argued at the Supreme Court yesterday, these 23 states decided that, for labor peace and the efficiency of services, public employees can be represented by a union, and, as long as the union represents everyone, those who do not want to join may instead pay a “fair share” fee. This fee is meant to compensate the union for bargaining contracts and other services; nonmembers are not required to pay anything toward any political activity by the union.
Yesterday, I was at the Supreme Court listening to the oral arguments in the Janus case. I listened as the right wing launched attack after attack on unions and on what collective bargaining gains for working people, those they serve and their communities. Indeed, Justice Sotomayor nailed the right wing’s argument, pointing out, “You’re basically arguing, do away with unions.”
This case isn’t about petitioner Mark Janus, it’s about defunding unions. It’s about who will have power in our country—working people or big corporate interests. That’s why it’s being funded by the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, and other wealthy and corporate interests. First, they pledged $80 million to “defund and defang” unions. Then, the Kochs, after getting the Trump tax cut, upped the ante with $400 million to undermine public education and “break” the teachers unions. And now, with the Janus case, they are pushing to prevent workers from having a union at all. Why? Because unions are our vehicle to fight for and win a better life for people, and corporate interests see that as a threat to their power.
Study after study shows that union workers have higher wages, better benefits, a more secure retirement and a voice in the workplace.
Yesterday was about fighting in the Supreme Court, but we’ve been fighting on many other fronts as well—speaking out in the court of public opinion and, most important, making sure our members, families, friends and allies know what we are up against. That’s why, this weekend, workers held rallies in 30 cities and counties throughout the country to fight for our fundamental right to union representation on the job. And that’s why our locals have spent the last year engaging members in one-on-one conversations. This recommitment to one another has been catalytic and transformative, and overwhelmingly, our members want to be part of our union, and they know how important it is for them, their families and their communities.
This is a “which side are you on?” moment. Our country must not revert to a time when workers were systematically denied even the most fundamental rights—a voice and a better life.