U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear Janus v. AFSCME case

The United States Supreme Court agreed on Thursday to hear the Janus v. AFSCME case, which threatens to turn the entire nation “Right-To-Work” in the public sector. It is expected that oral arguments will occur in January and the decision will be issued by April, but no later than June 2018.

As it currently stands, each public sector employee in a unionized workplace chooses whether to join a union, but the union is still required by law to represent and negotiate on behalf of all the workers – members and non-members alike. To accommodate this requirement, the 1977 Supreme Court case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education upheld the practice of permitting Fair Share fees to be paid by non-members who still receive the benefit of representation.

The Janus case threatens to overturn that Abood ruling, outlawing Fair Share fees, and making the entire nation “Right-To-Work” for public sector employees. That would mean the union would still be required to represent non-members, who would be paying nothing at all, passing that burden off to dues-paying members.

Make no mistake; this is not about protecting Americans’ freedom of speech or their “right to work.” This is about dismantling public sector unions and the voice of their members. The simple truth is no one is forced to join a union and no one is forced to pay any fees that go to political matters. That is already the law of the land. Nothing in this case will change that.

This case strikes at the freedom of, and opportunity for, working people to join together in strong unions to speak up for themselves, their families and their communities. It is a concerted, well-funded effort by right-wing special interests to “defund and defang” America’s unions.

The Janus case is purely a political scheme to further rig the economy against working people. Mark Janus, an AFSCME-represented public employee from Illinois and the plaintiff in this case, is not going this alone. He is backed and bankrolled by the National Right-To-Work Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center, which are heavily moneyed interests part of a larger Koch Brother-backed network. They latch onto disgruntled fee payers like Janus to push their agenda to further rig the economy in their favor, all under the guise of freedom of speech.

The ultra-wealthy rightfully view unions as an obstacle to absolute domination of the economy, and this court case is their attempt to destroy them. Unions have played a critical role in building and protecting the middle class in America. They provide hardworking people economic stability for their families and give them the tools to build a good life, home and education for their children.

Furthermore, strong unions are the key to unrigging the economy because they improve the lives of union and non-union members alike. Unions raise wages for both members and non-members, and set the standards for safety on the job. Through collective bargaining, members of strong unions are scoring victories that help entire communities, like safe nurse-staffing levels that help patients and smaller classroom sizes that help students. On top of that, strong unions advocate for equal opportunity for women and communities of color who have been systematically disadvantaged due to discrimination and prejudice.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court has taken up the Janus case, which makes a 5-4 decision against working people almost inevitable, in-part because of President Donald Trump’s appointment of notoriously anti-worker Neil Gorsuch to the court.

Nationwide “Right-To-Work” is just around the corner, but you can fight back…

What can AFSCME Council 13 members do to fight back?

All indications are that this case will come down in favor of the wealthy and against working people. Fortunately, there is something you can do about it. AFSCME has operated without Fair Share fees before, and can do so again. In order to do so, every Fair Share fee payer needs to sign up as a full-fledged, dues-paying member. If all AFSCME-represented employees in Pennsylvania are members, the effects of Janus would be minimal, and the union could continue fighting for workers just as it does now, if not better. If you know Fair Share fee payers at your workplace, talk to them and share this article with them. Let them know how important this is and how dire the threat to their livelihood Janus is.

To take it a step further, contribute to AFSCME Council 13’s Political And Legislative (PAL) fund so we can fight the ongoing attempts to dismantle unions at the national, state and local levels, and support political candidates who support you. Don’t stop there; show up on Election Day and cast your vote for pro-worker candidates.

Don’t give your union away. Never quit on your sisters and brothers. Be AFSCME Strong. Fight back.

Click here to view a joint statement from AFSCME International, AFT, NEA and SEIU.