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Trump And Right to Work And Janus v AFSCME

AFT Local 1360

Janus was a Roman god with two faces, each looking in the opposite direction.

“Janus-faced” means two-faced, or deceitful. It aptly describes the Trump administration and the other big-time, union-busting backers of the plaintiff in Janus v AFSCME Council 31.

The case, which is before the U.S. Supreme Court, could, in effect, force all public employee unions into a “right to work” framework. Also, it could “further undermine the rights of workers to choose, in a democratic process based on a majority vote, to support the payment of fees or dues for those represented by a union and protected by the collective bargaining agreement,” according to Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO.

AFSCME has several members in Kentucky.

Federal law requires a union to represent all hourly workers at a unionized job site. Under a state RTW law, workers can enjoy union-won wages and benefits without joining the union and paying dues or paying the union a fair-share fee to represent them.

Janus is part of the whole effort to turn back the clock on workers and unions by undermining our ability to represent our members by shutting off our financial resources,” Londrigan said. “Now with Janus, the focus is primarily on the public-sector, which has been the fastest growing part of the labor movement.”

In the Janus case, Mark Janus, an Illinois state government employee, is suing AFSCME because he doesn’t want to pay the union a fair-share fee. Rabidly anti-union groups like the National Right to Work Committee and the State Policy Network are behind him.

Organizations like the NRTWC and SPN claim they support “worker freedom.” Their real purpose is crushing unions. The SPN admits it’s goal is to “defund and defang” public employee unions.

“Under current law, every union-represented teacher, police officer, caregiver or other public service worker may choose whether or not to join the union — but the union is required to negotiate on behalf of all workers whether they join or not,” explained Roberta Lynch, AFSCME Council 31 executive director, in a Springfield, Ill., State Journal-Register guest column.

Council 31 represents 100,000 active and retired public service workers, including Janus.

She added, “Since all the workers benefit from the union’s gains, it’s only fair that everyone chip in toward the cost. That’s why 40 years ago a unanimous Supreme Court [in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education] approved the kind of cost-sharing arrangements known as fair share.”

Trump’s solicitor general has filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Janus.

Even so, the president says he’s the champion of workers. Yet on the campaign trail, he said he preferred “right to work” states to non-RTW states. He ran on a platform with a plank calling for a national right to work law.

“The Janus v. AFSCME case is an effort by powerful corporate interests to outlaw fair share, encouraging workers to contribute nothing toward the cost of union representation,” Lynch also said. “It actually began as a political scheme by Gov. Bruce Rauner, who shortly after taking office issued an executive order and filed a lawsuit trying to ban fair-share fees.”

After a handful of Kentucky counties passed local RTW laws, Rauner, a Republican, started pushing for local “right to work” zones in Illinois municipalities. Under federal law, only states can pass RTW measures. GOP Gov. Matt Bevin and his Republican-majority legislature made Kentucky a RTW state in January.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, one of the most anti-union lawmakers in Washington, has proposed a national RTW law.

Workers on Janus: A Political Effort to Further Rig the Rules Against Working People

In a rigged economy, workers say the freedom to come together in strong unions is more important than ever

WASHINGTON — The following statement was issued by members and leaders of AFSCME, AFT, NEA, and SEIU – the nation’s four largest public sector unions – in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to grant Certiorari in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31:

The Janus case is a blatantly political and well-funded plot to use the highest court in the land to further rig the economic rules against everyday working people. The billionaire CEOs and corporate interests behind this case, and the politicians who do their bidding, have teamed up to deliver yet another attack on working people by striking at the freedom to come together in strong unions. The forces behind this case know that by joining together in strong unions, working people are able to win the power and voice they need to level the economic and political playing field. However, the people behind this case simply do not believe that working people deserve the same freedoms they have: to negotiate a fair return on their work.

This case started with an overt political attempt by the billionaire governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, to attack public service workers through the courts. And, in a letter to supporters detailed in The Guardian, the CEO of the corporate-backed State Policy Network (SPN) reveals the true intent of a nationwide campaign of which Janus is a part: to strike a ‘mortal blow’ and ‘defund and defang’ America’s unions. The merits of the case are clear. Since 1977, Abood has effectively governed labor relations between public sector employees and employers, allowing employers and employees the freedom to determine labor policies that best serve the public. When reviewing the legal merits of this case, it is clear that this attempt to manipulate the court against working people should be rejected.

“This case is yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor. When working people are able to join strong unions, they have the strength in numbers they need to fight for the freedoms they deserve, like access to quality health care, retirement security and time off work to care for a loved one. The merits of the case, and 40 years of Supreme Court precedent and sound law, are on our side. We look forward to the Supreme Court honoring its earlier rulings.” – Lee Saunders, President, AFSCME

“My work as a Child Protection Investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is vital to the safety of our state’s most vulnerable children and families. This court case is yet another political attack on the freedom of my colleagues and I to speak up to ensure that we can safely and adequately manage our caseloads, which reflects our commitment to safety and public service to our communities.” – Stephen Mittons, AFSCME Council 31 member, Child Protection Investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

“Unions are all about fighting for and caring about people—and in the public sector that includes those we represent and those we protect and teach in communities across America. Yet corporations, wealthy interests and politicians have manufactured Janus as part of their long and coordinated war against unions. Their goal is to further weaken workers’ freedom to join together in a union, to further diminish workers’ clout.

“These powerful interests want to gut one of the last remaining checks on their control—a strong and united labor movement that fights for equity and opportunity for all, not just the privileged few. And under the guise of the First Amendment, they want to overturn a 40-year precedent that’s been reaffirmed numerous times. In other words, this would be a radical departure from well-established law. We believe that after resolving a similar case last year, the Supreme Court erred in granting cert in Janus, and that the trumped-up underpinnings of the plaintiff’s argument will rapidly become clear before the full bench.” – Randi Weingarten, President, AFT

“My union just went through a lengthy contract fight in Philadelphia. We had to fight hard to protect our students’ basic needs, such as having at least one nurse and counselor in each school and ensuring that kids had necessary textbooks and materials. And we had to fight back against the district’s desire to eliminate class sizes and get lead testing for the school’s water fountains. Most people assume that the union only fights for teachers’ rights, when in reality, most of our contract is there to protect the basic rights and needs of our students. Those rights are at grave risk in Janus.” – Jeff Price, AFT Local 3 member, Teacher at Central High School, School District of Philadelphia.

“For decades corporate CEO’s and the wealthy have fought to enrich themselves at the expense of the rights and pocket books of working people, and that harms families in communities across the country. As the nation’s largest union, we know this fight will not only impact the lives of educators, but it also impacts the families of the children we educate. We won’t back down from this fight and we will always stand up to support working people, our students and the communities we serve.” – Lily Eskelsen García, President, NEA

“More and more, the economy is working against working people, including the families whose children I teach. My union gives me a voice and a seat at the table to advocate for my students, my colleagues, and my community.” – Sonya Shpilyuk, NEA member, High School English teacher, Montgomery County, MD

The anti-worker extremists behind this case want to divide working people, make it harder to pool our resources, and limit our collective power. But SEIU members won’t let any court case stand in our way of sticking together for good jobs and strong communities.” – Mary Kay Henry, President, SEIU

“By sticking together in our union, we’ve lifted the wage floor to a $15 minimum wage, protected and expanded health care benefits for our families, and won more funding for our schools. Together, we’ll continue to fight to ensure all students have the support and services they need to succeed in school. That’s why the extremists are attacking us, to stop our progress. But we plan to stick together no matter what and keep standing up for quality public services.” – Edna Logan, SEIU Local 99 member, Custodian at Esteban Torres School, Los Angeles Unified School District.

SCOTUS Is on the Verge of Decimating Public-Sector Unions—But Workers Can Still Fight Back

CC DBKING

By DBKING CC

BY SHAUN RICHMAN, at In These Times

On Thursday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Janus vs. AFSCME, the case that will likely turn the entire public sector labor movement into a “right-to-work” zone. Like a lazy Hollywood remake, the case has all the big money behind it that last year’s Friedrichs v. CTA did, with none of the creativity.

In Friedrichs, the plaintiffs argued that interactions between public sector unions and government employers are inherently political. Therefore, the argument went, mandatory agency fees to reimburse the union for the expenses of representation and bargaining were forced political speech, violating employees’ purported First Amendment right to not pay dues.

The case ended in a 4-4 deadlock in March 2016, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who had appeared poised to vote against the unions’ interests.

Much like Friedrichs, the Janus case has rocketed through the federal courts. The National Right to Work Foundation, which represents the plaintiffs, petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case in early June. All briefs will likely be submitted by mid-January 2018, meaning SCOTUS could hold hearings almost exactly a year to the date that the Court last heard the same arguments.

The defendants may argue for procedural delays, which could potentially kick the decision into the following court term in 2018-2019. And it’s possible that in the meantime Justice Anthony Kennedy could die of a heart attack, or Sam Alito could forget to look both ways while crossing First St. and get run over by a bus. And the Democrats might take back the Senate next year, preventing the Trump administration from naming any more conservatives to the Court.

That’s the kind of magical thinking we’re left with, because the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is clearly determined to tilt the power of the country in favor of big business and against unions for at least a generation, and they care little about how just or fair their decisions appear to the public.

“Right to work” laws, currently on the books in 27 states, strip the requirement that union members pay union dues. Unions claim this creates a “free rider” problem, allowing workers to enjoy the benefits of union membership without contributing a dime. This deprives unions of crucial funding, but also—and this is no small consideration for the right-wing—every union family that drops their membership becomes one less door that union members can knock come election season.

Most national unions have been preparing for this eventuality since the first time the Roberts court took up the issue of public sector union fees in 2014’s Harris Vs. Quinncase. (If you’re keeping score, yes, the conservative justices on the Supreme Court have spent three years in a row trying to break the backs of unions).

Much of this preparation has focused on making sure that unions have a shop steward in every department and that every new hire is asked by a living breathing human being to actually join the union. But, as I wrote earlier this month, the bigger threat once workers have the right to evade union fees is the direct mail and phone-banking campaign that is already being run by Koch Brother-funded “think tanks” to encourage workers to drop their union membership and “give yourself a raise.”

As I wrote then, “The slick ‘give yourself a raise’ pamphlets will do the most damage in places where members think of the union as simply a headquarters building downtown. … But where members are involved in formulating demands and participating in protest actions, they find the true value and power of being in a union. That power—the power of an active and involved membership—is what the right-wing most fears, and is doing everything in its power to stop.”

There is a certain irony in conservatives applying the First Amendment to collective bargaining, a principle that conservative jurists have studiously avoided for two centuries. If every interaction that a union has with the government is a matter of speech, then we have a stronger argument for instituting a Bill of Rights for labor to protect workers and their right to demand fair treatment on the job.

Unions are already oppressively regulated. They are told by the National Labor Relations Board whom they can picket, when they may march and what they might say on a flyer. And they face steep fines if they disobey. Workers are forced to attend endless hours of anti-union presentations before a union election with no right to respond or boycott.

If every interaction the government has with a union is a matter of political speech—as a ruling in favor of Janus would imply—unions must respond by forcefully arguing that the rules of the system have been unfairly holding workers back, violating of our rights to free speech, due process and equal protection.

(Republished with permission from In These Times.)

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