…. For those of us in the labor movement, the claims made in Janus are not novel. They are the same ones the right has deployed for years as part of a well-orchestrated campaign to destroy the political clout of unions. All you have to do is follow the money and you will see that the National Right to Work Committee, which is bankrolling the Janus case, has deep connections to a network of right-wing organizations funded by the Koch Brothers and other aspiring corporate oligarchs. This network of right-wing non-profit organizations, which include the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council and State Policy Network, has been dedicated to legally and legislatively stymieing the political work of labor unions for years. ….
…. Today’s ruling means that all public-sector unions could essentially operate under “right-to-work,” depriving labor of critical funding, increasing the problem of “free ridership” and potentially decimating union membership.
Unions are bracing for the aftermath of the ruling. And mainstream media outlets, which do not generally devote much ink to labor stories, have highlighted the case in headline after headline. Yet what many fail to mention is that Janus would be particularly devastating for one group in particular: African-American women.
Public sector unions have long been a source of economic power for African-American women, who are disproportionately represented in their ranks. A March brief from Celine McNicholas and Janelle Jones at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that African-American women have the highest share of workers in the public sector—17.7 percent, equaling about 1.5 million workers.
The public sector provides job opportunities for African-American workers, and women especially, at a rate much higher than the private sector. In 2015, African-American women made up 10 percent of government workers, compared to just 6 percent in private-sector employment. ….
Source: Frank Manzo IV, Robert Bruno, Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class, Labor Education Program School of Labor and Employment Relations, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, May 2018
The U.S. labor movement is bracing for a decision by the Supreme Court that could dramatically weaken public sector unions. The case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, et al., is expected to be decided in a vote against “fair share” fees in the public sector. The ruling would strike down a 41-year precedent (Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 1977) that requires public sector workers represented by a labor union to pay for the collective bargaining work that the union performs on their behalf.
If the Court strikes down Abood, workers would be able to “free ride” and receive services, benefits, and representation from unions without paying for them in the form of fair share fees or membership dues. This would impact at least 5 million state and local government employees represented by collective bargaining agreements in 23 collective bargaining states and the District of Columbia.
This report examines the economic impact of effectively instituting so-called “right-to-work” conditions in the public sector across America.
Janus opens the door to active campaigns by the Right to get members to drop their union dues. Here’s how labor can fight back.
The Supreme Court Janus decision is a devastating defeat for labor. Public-sector unions now have two choices: continued decline, or a reversion to the kind of militant collective action of the movement’s early years.
As public sector unions contemplate losing key rights under the law, it’s worth remembering that for much of their history, such unions organized with no rights at all.
It wasn’t till 1958 that New York became the first city to authorize collective bargaining for city employees. Wisconsin did the same for state employees in 1959, and federal workers got bargaining rights in 1962.
Yet as early as 1940, a book titled One Thousand Strikes of Government Employees described strikes dating back to the 1830s, when workers at U.S. Navy shipyards stopped work multiple times to press demands for better wages and conditions. ….
In the last decade, an increasingly energized campaign against workers’ rights has been waged across all levels of government—federal, state, and local. Much of the focus of this anti-worker campaign has been on public-sector workers, specifically state and local government workers. For example, several states have passed legislation restricting workers’ right to unionize and collectively bargain for better wages and benefits. Beyond these legislative attacks, public-sector workers have been targeted by repeated legal challenges to their unions’ ability to effectively represent them. The Supreme Court will soon issue a decision in the most recent of these challenges, Janus v. AFSCME Council 31. As a previous EPI report explained, the corporate interests backing the plaintiffs in Janus are seeking to weaken the bargaining power of unions by restricting the ability of public-sector unions to collect “fair share” (or “agency”) fees for the representation they provide. In this new report, we argue that the decision in Janus will have significant impacts on public-sector workers’ wages and job quality as well as on the critical public services these workers provide.
…. Speculation about what a Janus ruling in favor of the plaintiffs will mean for teachers unions has been rampant. Many, if not most, of the analysts who follow education policy and organized labor believe that the ruling will result in decreased power for teachers unions. The logic behind this assumption is simple: teachers unions will lose dues revenue because membership will decrease and former agency-fee payers will cease paying fees for union services. With fewer resources, teachers unions will have less ability to exert their influence in local, state, and federal elections and at the bargaining table. Fewer members, less money, less power. Right?
Not necessarily. Agency fees have been challenged at the state level over the past decade, and two states recently stopped allowing unions to collect them: Wisconsin and Michigan. The passage of those Right-to-Work laws may have caught state affiliates by surprise, unlike the widely anticipated Janus ruling. Even so, a close look at Wisconsin and Michigan may provide important clues about the future of teachers unions in a post-Janus world. ….
Justice Gorsuch’s silence during the Janus oral argument generated considerable buzz. Wishful (yet tentative) commentators hoped the silence was a sign that the new Justice’s originalism would lead him to uphold Abood. To be sure, Justice Thomas, the Court’s other steadfast originalist, voted with the majority in Harris. And commentators have largely assumed that both Justices will vote with Janus here. But winning over either Justice Gorsuch or Justice Thomas could be Abood’s best hope for survival. ….
Key facts about the sector for followers of Janus v. AFSCME Council 31
The forthcoming Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 will likely have profound implications for the 17.3 million workers in state and local government across the country. The case involves a First Amendment challenge to state laws that allow public-sector unions to require state and local government workers who are not union members, but who are represented by a union, to pay “fair share” or “agency” fees for the benefits they receive from union representation. By stripping unions of their ability to collect fair share fees, a decision for the plaintiffs in Janus would hurt all state and local government workers by impeding their ability to organize and bargain collectively. This report provides a profile of the 6.8 million of these workers who are covered by union contracts, and it reviews some key long-term trends in unionization in state and local governments.
As this report shows:
• A majority (58 percent) of union workers (workers covered by a collective bargaining contract) in state and local government are women.
• African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up one-third of unionized state and local government workers.
• While teachers constitute the single largest subgroup of union workers in state and local government, union workers also include those serving the public as administrators, social workers, police officers, firefighters, and other professionals.
• On average, union workers in state and local government have substantially more formal education than workers in the private sector. Over 60 percent of state and local government union workers have a four-year college degree or more education, compared with one-third in the private sector.
Data on union membership trends shed light on why a Supreme Court decision affecting the unionized state and local government workforce has broad implications. State and local government workers constitute the largest subgroup (42.1 percent) of all union members in the country. Over a third (36.1 percent) of state and local government workers belong to a union, compared with just 6.5 percent of workers in the private sector nationally. This 36.1 percent share is down from the roughly 38- to 40-percent share sustained throughout the 1990s and 2000s. In the 2010s, state and local government worker union membership has been slowly declining as attacks on public-sector unions have ramped up.