Viewed by many as the most serious assault on labor organizations in recent history, the Supreme Court decision in Janus vs AFSCME is a call for the unions and worker organizations to adopt more militant and aggressive tactics in dealing with employers. Following is a statement by the Southern Workers Assembly (SWA) with an analysis and ideas on the way forward.
U.S. SUPREME COURT DEALS BODY BLOW TO PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS, HURTS ALL
“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans such as ‘right to work,’” Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1964. “It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. “Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions for everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer, and there are no civil rights.”
On June 27th 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a major blow to all worker, but was a direct hit on public sector unions. This case distorts the fact that these unions work hard to build “workers power”, and benefit all public sector workers with health care plans, wage increases, safety shoes & equipment, retirement plans, safe and improved workplaces. This court ruling will weaken the unions’ resources, organizing/servicing staffing, financial structure and undermine the future stability of these unions. A significant portion of all U.S. unions are public sector worker unions.
With this decision, the justices struck down an Illinois law that required “non-union”workers in workplaces where public service unions, have collective bargaining rights, are organized and winning improvements for all workers, to pay “fair share fees”. The United States Supreme Court successfully overturned a 1977 law that required all workers (including the non-union employees) to pay so-called “fair share” fees. The plaintiff, Mark Janus, a child support specialist at the Illinois Dept. of Health Care & Family Services, argued that he should be able to refrain from paying the American Federation of State County Municipal Employees Union( AFSCME) his fair share fee as a First Amendment constitutional right.
MOST SIGNIFICANT COURT DECISiON AFFECTING COLLECTIVE BARGAINING RIGHTS IN DECADES
The ruling was 5-4, along familiar anti-worker and ideological lines. The majority opinion stated that the previous pro-worker/pro-union, 40-year-precedent law NOW, all of a sudden, violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment right to the” freedom of association”. This Supreme Court decision is the second time in recent weeks where this court has infuriated workers and advocates for workers’ rights. This same court ruled in May that employers could require employees to sign class action waivers in employment arbitration agreements that bar them from banding together to fight for their‘ rights in legal disputes.
Janus was backed by Big Business’s “Right To Work”Committee, Who are some of the corporate members of the National Right to Work Committee? We can start with the national Chambers of Commerce, the Koch Brothers Its fundraising arm, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund has received major funds from the Walton Family Foundation (Walmart), the Coors family Castle Rock Foundation, Wisconsin’s Bradley Foundation, the John M. Olin Fdn. and the Searle Freedom Trust.. From 1999 through 2013, the NRTW Committee spent more than $33 million lobbying the US Congress.
It also hobbies extensively, according to The Center for Media and Democracy, at the state level and has ties to ALEC, the American legislative Exchange Council. ALEC, among other anti-worker, anti-environmental actions, crafts so-called “model bills for state legislators.When Republican took control of 26 state houses in 2010, so-called “right to work” was the top of the December 2010 ALEC meeting. As of June 2014, 24 states were so-called “right to work” states. In 2013, 15 states introduced legislation based upon ALEC’s “ Right to Work Act”. The National Right to Work legal Defense Fund is also an associate member of the State Policy Network (SPN), an $84 million network of 64 state-based “think tanks”, which produce so-called think pieces and policy papers for state legislators. Through the Koch Brothers, the National Right to Work Committee, early on, had ties to the rabidly right-wing John Birch Society.
SPECIAL IMPACT ON BLACK WORKERS AND OTHER WORKERS OF COLOR
During the 1950s, 60s and 70s, Black workers entered the public sector, and public sector unions, because the federal, and later state and local governments had the greater amount of anti-discrimination policies. Our numbers are much higher in the public sector unions than those in the private sector. More Black workers led organizing campaigns and have risen to leadership within the public sector. With the greater benefits, wages, access to organizing skills, unions in general and the public sector in particular have had a greater impact on our communities
WHY IS THE RULING, WEALTHY CLASS LAUNCHING ALL OUT WAR ON THE WORKING CLASS AND OUR UNIONS?
Why are public service workers, their unions and the public services they provide at the sharpest point of attack ? Public sector workers are Veteran Administration, Amtrak, transit workers, Environmental Protection Agency and other federal, state, county and city workers; it includes teachers in public schools, colleges and universities, and postal workers.
Unions are the only organizations by workers specifically organized to protect and fight for our interests in the workplace and beyond. Public employees’ unions are only one part of the larger labor movement. History has shown that corporate power always uses divide and conquer to weaken workers (craft against craft, black against white, women against men, young against old, etc.) for the purpose of gaining complete and unbridled control to reduce labor, operating costs etc. no matter how bad the conditions it creates for those who work for them. Weaken the union, weaken workers’ ability to better their working conditions, wages and more. We can guarantee after going after the public sector unions, now they are more positioned to go after private sector unions.
What do these attacks mean for their lives? What Impact on southern workers who have even less workplace protections, unions or collective bargaining rights? Women workers? Black/Brown workers? their working class communities? Certainly it weakens the unions and workers ability to organize workers to build unions and build workers power to fight forecasted budget cuts in public services and public sector jobs. It lowers the bar and workers expectations to repealing anti-worker laws and winning collective bargaining rights for public sector workers. Organizing “Unions and Collective Bargaining” is a fundamental democratic right !…It is an internationally recognized HUMAN RIGHT !
WHAT WE MUST DO: AN INJURY TO ONE WORKER, HUMAN RIGHT, IS AN INJURY TO ALL WORKERS’ AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Public sector unions, all unions in general, as well as all workers must learn the creative historical lessons of those militant “social movement unions” in the South who always used rank and file workers ‘ direct action and radical activism…who won workplace and community battles as they fought against the systematic white supremacist anti -worker, anti- union, racist divide and conquer political system of capitalism. With strapped and little resources, but with strategic plans and militant tactics, women workers fought their way out of traditional jobs….Black and Brown workers built organizations and labor community solidarity that went beyond business unionism and service models . The Southern Workers Assembly, it’s SWA Workers School and it’s North Carolina Durham Workers Assembly are moving in the right left direction to respond to this growing War on Workers, their Unions and the Working Class. Join us !
Contact the Southern Workers Assembly c/ o UE Local 150 -NC Public Service Workers Union