Labor Fights Back After U.S. Supreme Court Tries to Strike it Down

By Bethany Swanson
USW Intern

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the Janus v. AFSCME case that non-union members cannot be required to pay fair share fees to cover the cost of services that public sector unions provide to them. This outcome is exactly what right-wing billionaires hoped for when they spent untold millions backing plaintiff Mark Janus who did not want to pay fair share fees.

Billionaire right-wingers want to destroy public sector unions because they advance pro-worker, pro-community and pro-environment policies.

The Janus ruling comes just weeks after the Supreme Court issued a decision in the Epic Systems v. Lewis case, restricting workers’ ability to come together to form class-action lawsuits and forcing workers to file alone to redress abuse or discrimination.

Together, these decisions show, once again, that the right-wing majority on the Court privileges corporations over people and billionaires over workers.

Over the past 30 years, the percentage of workers protected by unions has declined. And wages have stagnated as workers have lost the power of a collective voice to demand better pay and benefits. The Janus case could result in further retrenchment of union representation. Some estimate it will cut membership in public sector unions by 8.2 percent if public sector workers drop out of their unions and decline to pay fair share fees.

The Freedom Foundation, a conservative group accused of campaign finance violations in Washington State, is spending millions to make sure workers ditch their unions. The foundation began acquiring lists of workers and identifying public employees to feature in anti-union videos in February and will deploy 80 paid propagandists to California, Oregon and Washington to try to persuade at least 127,000 union members to quit and refuse to pay fair share fees.

If successful, the Freedom Foundation will use more grants from billionaires to try to persuade public sector workers across the country to abandon their unions, that is, the organizations that bargain better wages and working conditions for workers.

The AFL-CIO isn’t sitting on its heels and taking this abuse.  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the day the Janus decision was announced, “We have never depended on any politician or judge to decide our fate and we aren’t about to start now.”

The AFL-CIO and individual public sector unions including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), began beating back against the Janus decision even before it was announced. Together they’ve organized campaigns where union members have met with hundreds of thousands of other members to persuade them to stand with their unions. After the Supreme Court’s decision the ultimate question for workers is who do they trust: a bunch of billionaires or their fellow union members?


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