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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.

Why Tomorrow’s Supreme Court Case is So Important

Here’s where we are, as a country: only 20% of us trust our government to do what is right.

Pew Research Center: Public Trust in Government 2017

Pew Research Center: Public Trust in Government 2017

And tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford, a case testing the limits of partisan gerrymandering.

Not sure what “gerrymandering” is?  It’s when lines for legislative districts are drawn in a way that influences election outcomes.  Depending on who’s drawing the lines, gerrymandering can help ensure that Republicans win, or that Democrats win.  It causes a whole lot of “wasted votes.”

Gerrymandering lets politicians pick their voters, rather than voters picking their choice of politicians.

In Wisconsin, the districting plan at issue in Gill v. Whitford allowed the political party that drew electoral boundaries to gain 60% of the seats in the state Legislature, despite only getting 49% of the statewide vote.

Last year, those electoral maps were struck down by a federal district court, which found that

“Act 43 was intended to burden the representational rights of …voters throughout the decennial period by impeding their ability to translate their votes into legislative seats. Moreover, as demonstrated by the results of the 2012 and 2014 elections, among other evidence, we conclude that Act 43 has had its intended effect.”

Here’s why tomorrow’s case is so important.  Right now, American citizens trust the courts more than any other branch of government. According to Gallup, that may be because the Judicial Branch is seen as “above the political fray” compared to the White House or Congress.

But if the Supreme Court overrules the District Court decision in Gill v. Whitford, that’s going to put our Court system squarely in the middle of that “political fray.”

And at a time when

  • 72 percent of voters agree “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful”
  • 68 percent agree that “traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like me” and
  • 57 percent feel that “more and more, I don’t identify with what America has become”

the last thing our country needs is for the Supreme Court to give citizens a reason to lose faith in the judicial system.


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



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.)

At AFSCME Conference, Clinton Pledges to Fight for Working Americans as President

‘We have to send a loud, clear message: “right to work” is wrong for workers and wrong for America’

AFSCME_Hillary_ClintonIn remarks at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Hillary Clinton reiterated her commitment to fighting for working families as president and defending labor unions from Republican attacks.

“I can’t imagine how we could run our country if we didn’t have people like you, and the members you represent, working on our behalf every day,” Clinton said.  “That’s why it’s so outrageous when Republican governors steamroll public employees and stomp on workers’ rights.  In Wisconsin, the cradle of the labor movement, Scott Walker has ripped the heart, he’s ripped the heart, out of public-sectors workers’ right to bargain collectively for better wages and benefits.  In Illinois, Bruce Rauner has been holding the budget hostage for months, endangering public colleges and universities, hurting families, and demanding outrageous concessions from public-sector unions.”

“And even though workers’ rights won the day in the Supreme Court in the Friedrichs case, make no mistake—we haven’t seen the last of efforts to use the courts to undermine your rights,” she said.  “So I promise you this: I will be by your side in this fight every step of the way. When I am President, working people will always have a seat at the table and a champion in the White House.  Because I believe that when unions are strong, America is strong.”

Clinton highlighted Trump’s plan to repeal Wall Street reform laws passed in the wake of the Great Recession. “I predict that Donald will try to con you with tough talk about Wall Street.  Don’t believe him,” she said.  “Donald Trump wants to tear up Dodd-Frank and let Wall Street run wild again.”

Clinton also highlighted Trump’s hiring of a union-busting firm, his consistent practice of shortchanging contractors – driving some out of business – and a consensus among economists that his policies would plunge us back into a recession.

“Unions helped build the strongest middle class in the history of the world. You pioneered the basic bargain that made our country great. You know what it is: if you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead,” she said. “And you’ve been on the frontlines of the fight for affordable health care, safe working conditions, fair schedules and fair wages. And I know you’re not just fighting for your members, as important as that is – you’re fighting for all working families.”

“I’m proud to be in the trenches fighting alongside you to raise wages, protect pensions, and keep the ‘public’ in ‘public sector.’  That includes ending private prisons and detention centers that profit off our criminal justice and immigration system,” Clinton said.  “And we have to send a loud, clear message: ‘right to work’ is wrong for workers and wrong for America.”

“We will pursue a bold, progressive agenda that lifts our country up. So that no one is left out or left behind,” she said.  “AFSCME helped to make our 2016 Democratic platform a strong vision.  It’s wonderful to be with people who want to build America up, not tear Americans down.”

A transcript of Clinton’s full remarks to the AFSCME Annual Conference is available here.

People For The American Way Activists Deliver A Constitution Cake For Senator Ayotte’s Birthday


Today, People For the American Way activists and allies held birthday celebration outside of Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s Manchester office to mark the Senator’s birthday. Activists delivered a Constitution cake to call for the Senator to fill her constitutional responsibility to advise and consent on the President’s Supreme Court nominee, Chief Judge Merrick Garland.  

IMG_0148Ayotte has refused to support hearings and a vote for Garland for over 100 days now, despite pressure from 63% of Granite Staters who support a hearing and vote. Since the 1980s, every person appointed to the Court has been given a prompt hearing and vote within 100 days. Garland recently received the highest possible rating from a non-partisan committee of the American Bar Association.

“Sen. Ayotte is completely out of excuses,” said Linds Jakows, PFAW New Hampshire Campaign Organizer. “Since she can’t justify this unprecedented obstruction by claiming New Hampshire voters support it, it’s clear she’s intentionally holding the seat open to be filled by Donald Trump, who’s called for punishment for women seeking abortions and stated that a judge’s religion or heritage should disqualify them.”

In addition to delivering the Constitution Cake, activists sang Senator Ayotte a special version of Happy Birthday.  Check out the video here, or below.

Below is the text of the special Senator Ayotte Happy Birthday song:

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to Kelly, happy birthday to you!

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, please uphold the Constitution and support hearings and a vote too!

Happy birthday dear Ayotte, you are 48. If you supported hearings that would be really great!

Happy birthday dear Ayotte, our Supreme Court isn’t fine. Justice for millions is waiting– we really need nine.

Happy birthday to Ayotte, listen to the people’s will. Stop holding the Supreme Court open for Donald Trump to fill!

LiUNA Calls On Congress To Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform

 Supreme Court Split Decision on Immigration Underscores Importance of this Election and Urgency for Congress to Act on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

(Terry O'Sullivan is the General President of the Laborers International Union of North America - LiUNA)

(Terry O’Sullivan is the General President of the Laborers International Union of North America – LiUNA)

Washington, D.C. (June 24, 2016) – Terry O’Sullivan, General President of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – made the following statement today on the Supreme Court’s split decision on the President’s Executive Order to provide relief to immigrant families:

The Supreme Court’s inability to make a decision; thereby blocking any potential relief for immigrant families, underscores the importance of this election at all levels of government. The next President of the United States will have the critical job of filling the vacant seat on the Supreme Court—a seat that will be the deciding vote on critical issues that have an impact on families, workers, and our nation for years to come.

President Obama’s Executive Order was a temporary solution that was put forth after the U.S. House rejected the Senate’s bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation. LIUNA was proudly founded in 1903 by immigrant workers and we have long been a proud and united advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. The current system is broken and leads to unfair results in far too many cases; including tragic family separations and worker exploitation. It is outrageous and perplexing that while this Congress cannot get comprehensive immigration reform done, it is able to get expansion of exploitative H2B visa programs passed.

It’s up to Congress to right the injustices in our current immigration system and it’s urgent that they do so. The 2016 elections, which are around the corner, will set the stage for action on immigration and many other issues critical to our members. LIUNA strongly supports candidates like Secretary Hillary Clinton for President of the United States, who will champion working class families, fight for immigration reform, and put the right person on the Supreme Court so that America continues to be a country that provides protection from exploitation and grants every person the opportunity to prosper from hard work.

NARAL Pro-Choice America Launches New Ad Campaign Targeting Senator Kelly Ayotte

NARAL-Logo-rectangleStatewide Ad Campaign Features Local NARAL Members Calling on Sen. Ayotte to #DoYourJob and Stop Using Abortion as Excuse to Block Supreme Court Process

NARAL Pro-Choice America today highlighted a new ad campaign targeting U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). The ad campaign, which is already playing on radio stations across the state, pushes Sen. Ayotte to do the job she was elected to do by filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court. The six-figure, week-long radio and digital campaign targets three other senators in addition to Sen. Ayotte, all of whom are linchpins of the Republican effort to obstruct the confirmation process: Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Rob Portman (R-OH). The ads highlight leaked audio showing that the GOP strategy of obstructing the nomination process has really been about limiting access to abortion all along. 

“NARAL is stepping up to ensure Sen. Ayotte does the job the people of New Hampshire elected her to do,” said Sasha Bruce, senior vice president for campaigns and strategy at NARAL Pro-Choice America. “Senate Republicans have not only refused to do their jobs for more than two months, but now we learn that their cynical obstructionism has really been about limiting access to abortion all along.”

“In the ad, the story told by NARAL member and New Hampshire resident Deidre Reynolds makes clear that Sen. Ayotte simply doesn’t share the priorities of the hardworking families she was elected to represent,” added Bruce. “Seven-in-ten Americans support legal access to abortion. Senators like Kelly Ayotte who are obstructing the nomination process in order to limit access to abortion couldn’t be more out of touch. The message from New Hampshire voters to Sen. Ayotte is clear: #DoYourJob and fill the vacancy on our nation’s highest court.”

All four of the new ads can be found here. This new ad follows NARAL’s recent ad campaign targeted at Sen. Ayotte for failing to do her job to fill the Supreme Court vacancy and being preoccupied with limiting access to abortion.

NARAL’s radio ad below.

NARAL Pro-Choice America and its network of state affiliates are dedicated to protecting and expanding reproductive freedom for all Americans. NARAL works to guarantee that every woman has the right to make personal decisions regarding the full range of reproductive choices, including preventing unintended pregnancy, bearing healthy children, and choosing legal abortion. In recognition of its work defending our constitutional right to choose, Fortune Magazine described NARAL as “one of the top 10 advocacy groups in America.”

THE ECONOMIST Hammers Ayotte On Failure To Support SCOTUS Hearings

Over 60% of Granite Staters Support SCOTUS Hearings and Vote On Nominee

Current Eight-Justice Court is “Sowing Legal Confusion”


Concord, N.H. — A new poll from Franklin Pierce University shows that 63% of Granite Staters believe the Senate should hold hearings and a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee before the next presidential election, including 51% of Granite Staters who believe strongly that the Senate should hold hearings and vote.

This weekend, The Economist also highlighted the legal confusion that an eight-Justice court is leaving across the country. The Economist editorial board wrote that “Whether the divide manifests as 4-4 splits or a tendency to hear fewer cases in which those splits seem likely, a Supreme Court with eight judges is not a court that can live up to its name.” 

See below for excerpts of The Economist editorial or click here:

…Twice since Mr Scalia’s death the Supreme Court has performed the judicial equivalent of throwing up its hands. In a small case concerning banking rules and in an important one challenging the future of public-sector unions, the justices issued one-sentence per curiam(“by the court”) rulings: “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.” A tie in the high court means that the ruling in the court below stands. But these non-rulings do not bind other lower courts, and the judgment has no value as a precedent. A tie, in short, leaves everything as it was and as it would have been had the justices never agreed to hear the case in the first place. 

That’s a lot of wasted ink, paper, time and breath. And now it seems the justices may be keen to reduce future futile efforts as they contemplate a year or more with a missing colleague. Only 12 cases are now on the docket for the October 2016 term, and grants are lagging below the average of recent years. The slow pace is especially notable because it marks a slowdown from an already highly attenuated docket. Seventy years ago, the justices decided 200 or more cases a year; that number declined to about 150 in the 1980s and then plummeted into the 80s and, in recent years, the 70s…

What’s wrong with eight justices? The main worry is that tied votes sow legal confusion. When the judges are split down the middle, they cannot resolve rival views on controversial issues—from affirmative action and public unions to gay rights, birth control and abortion. By letting lower-court decisions stand but not requiring other courts to abide by the ruling, the stage is set for odd state-by-state or district-by-district distinctions when it comes to the meaning of laws or the constitution…So if the justices divide 4-4 in Zubik v Burwell, women across most of America will have access to birth control through their employer’s health coverage, while women in seven midwestern states will not. 

…it is hard to see how a denuded court is appealing in the medium or long term. A patchwork of legal realities may have been fitting for America under the Articles of Confederation, before the country had a political system that turned it into a union, but America’s constitutional design is not consonant with confusion about what the law means on controversial questions. Whether the divide manifests as 4-4 splits or a tendency to hear fewer cases in which those splits seem likely, a Supreme Court with eight judges is not a court that can live up to its name.

Why Is Sen. Ayotte Holding the Vacant Supreme Court Seat For Donald Trump to Fill?

By Lindsay Jakows

Lindsay Jakows

Lindsay Jakows

Soon after Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Sen. Kelly Ayotte said that she will support him in the general election. Since Sen. Ayotte has repeatedly indicated her opposition to providing fair consideration to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, she has now made clear that her position is that the Supreme Court vacancy should be left open until a President Trump can fill it. I find this to be deeply troubling.

Our judicial system is meant to be above partisan politics, and our Founders laid out a clear process for filling Supreme Court vacancies when they occur. Article II of the Constitution is straightforward about the duties of both the president and the Senate: the president nominates a judge and senators provide “advice and consent.” There is no asterisk in the Constitution to say this does not happen during the final year of a presidency. There is no asterisk saying this does not happen when the Senate is controlled by a different political party than the president and the majority leader prefers for his party to do the nominating. That is simply not how the system works, and for good reason. 

Senate Republicans’ insistence on casting aside a well-established, Constitutional process is threatening the functioning of our democracy and the promise of an impartial judiciary — a fact that should be concerning to all of us. 

Nonetheless, Republican senators, including Sen. Ayotte, are doing just that, blocking the fair consideration of a nominee who is universally known to be even-tempered, hardworking, eminently qualified, and committed to the unbiased interpretation of our laws. Chief Judge Merrick Garland has more federal judicial experience than any prior Supreme Court nominee. He has gained the admiration of people across the political spectrum, including Republican senators like Orrin Hatch who once called Garland “a consensus nominee.” Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, a former colleague of Garland’s on the D.C. Circuit, once said that whenever Judge Garland disagrees with you, “you know you’re in a difficult area.” Former Solicitors General from Democratic and Republican administrations alike, spanning the ideological spectrum, agree that Judge Garland is “superbly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.” 

This is the judge President Obama has put forward: a moderate and exceptionally qualified nominee. On the other hand, if Donald Trump were to be elected, he would be the one making nominations, which is a truly frightening prospect. Trump’s proposals can be described as erratic and dangerous, at best. This is a candidate who has advocated killing the family members of terrorists, despite the Geneva Convention; supports a “total and complete” ban on Muslim people coming into the country; wants to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants by force; and has pledged to “open up” libel laws in order to attack news organizations. The list he released recently of his potential Supreme Court picks only underscores just how dangerous it would be for Donald Trump to be the person nominating our high court’s justices. 

It also makes it all the more distressing that our state’s senator has taken a stance against giving Judge Garland fair consideration, instead working to hold the seat open for our next president, who she hopes will be Trump. 

I believe Americans deserve better than this. Without a fully-staffed Supreme Court, the justices will likely continue to deadlock in 4-4 split votes, leaving important legal questions unresolved. Creating a precedent of unnecessarily obstructing Supreme Court nominees is harmful for both the Court itself and for Americans who should be able to rely on a working democracy. Sen. Ayotte should fight for a fully-functioning judiciary, not attempt to delay filling the Supreme Court vacancy so that a President Trump can do so.

Lindsay Jakows is the New Hampshire Campaign Organizer with People For the American Way.

Voters Disagree With Ayotte In Refusing To Hold Hearings For SCOTUS Nominee

New Poll Shows Majority of Voters Disagree with Ayotte’s Position that Trump Should Pick the Next Supreme Court Justice

Majorities of Republicans and Independents Also Believe There Should be Hearings on the Nominee

CONCORD – While Kelly Ayotte doubles down on her support for Donald Trump and continues to obstruct the Supreme Court confirmation process, a new poll shows that a majority of voters disagree with Ayotte’s position that Donald Trump should pick the next Supreme Court justice.

A new Public Policy Polling survey released today showed that 53 percent of voters nationally do not trust Trump to pick the next justice, and 58 percent of voters want the seat to be filled this year.

There is also bipartisan consensus that the Senate should hold hearings on Merrick Garland, something Ayotte has strongly opposed. The poll found 65 percent of voters, including 56 percent of independents and 55 percent of Republicans want the Senate to hold hearings this year.

“This poll reinforces what we already knew: voters don’t agree with Kelly Ayotte that Donald Trump should pick the next Supreme Court justice,” said Maggie for NH Communications Director Aaron Jacobs. “It’s disappointing that Senator Ayotte continues to toe the party line and would choose to leave such a crucial decision in the hands of Donald Trump. While Ayotte continues to refuse to do her job, Granite Staters are making their displeasure with her partisan obstruction heard loud and clear across the state — and they will make it clear again at the ballot box in November.” 

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