Category Archives: Future of Unions

Rebuilding Power in Open-Shop America: A Labor Notes Guide

Source: Labor Notes, July 2, 2018

….Janus is a serious blow—but we have good news. As plenty of unions in open-shop states and sectors can testify, it’s still possible to win campaigns and maintain high membership rates despite the legal hurdles. We talked to workers in schools, factories, buses, hospitals, oil refineries, grocery stores, post offices, and shipyards.

This guide reveals the principles and practical steps behind their successes. Here’s the punchline: the unions that build power in open-shop America will be the ones that fight hard on workplace issues their members care about, and where large numbers of rank-and-file members take on their own fights…..

Context
How We Got Here
Our Prescription
The Racist History of Right to Work
Who’s Next?
The Anti-Union Game Plan

Diagnostics
Exercise: The Open-Shop Stress Test
Quiz: Assess Your Danger Level
Jump-Starting a Weak Union from Below

Brass Tacks
1. Be Democratic
2. Fight the Boss
3. Turn Up the Heat
4. Ask People to Join
5. Count Noses
6. Don’t Go It Alone

How Corporations Plan To Use Janus To Turn Workers Against Their Own Unions

Source: Chris Brooks, In These Times, July 2, 2018

A union buster may be coming to your door.

…..SEIU 925 is the target of an “opt-out campaign,” a new anti-union initiative by the State Policy Network (SPN), the web of billionaire-backed right-wing groups that helped fund the Janus v. AFSCME lawsuit. The Washington-based Freedom Foundation is a star member.

SPN got the Supreme Court ruling it wanted in Janus, which nationalized right-to-work conditions across the public sector. All public sector workers now have the option of receiving union benefits without paying for them. If enough workers choose to stop paying dues, union budgets and power will be greatly diminished.

SPN is now building on the Janus victory with opt-out campaigns to contact government employees in union-dense states and encourage them to drop their membership. Their targets include blue states such as California, Illinois, New York, Oregon and Washington that have resisted passing anti-union legislation. The plan is simple: Gut unions of members and money so they have less influence on state elections. Once sympathetic politicians are in office, corporate interests can pass state laws to torch what remains of organized labor.

But unions have also spent months preparing for this moment…..

How Badly Did the Supreme Court Just Damage Public Sector Unions? Take a Look at Michigan.

Source: Jordan Weissman, Slate, June 27, 2018

….Estimates vary as to how drastically right-to-work policies ultimately reduce union membership, but the consensus at this point is that they’re a drag. Michigan offers a useful illustration, in part because it passed a right to work law in 2013, meaning enough time has passed to judge its initial effects, and because the state’s largest teachers union, the Michigan Education Association, files financial and membership information with the Department of Labor. (Many purely public sector unions don’t because they aren’t required to.) According to those documents, the union has lost 18 percent of its membership since the statute was passed. Dues and membership fees have declined, meanwhile, by 28 percent. The union hasn’t collapsed, but it is significantly reduced…..

….David Crim, a spokesman for the Michigan Education Association, told me that many teachers decided to leave the union even though they supported it, because dropping their membership and not paying dues was the only way they felt they could increase their incomes at a time when educators’ wages in Michigan have been stagnant. If true, that points to how right-to-work policies can create a vicious cycle for unions: Weakening organized labor makes it harder for public sector unions to organize and bargain for better pay, encouraging more teachers to drop their memberships for the sake of their own finances…..

Supreme Court Bans Mandatory Union Fees for Public-Sector Workers

Source: Lisa Nagele-Piazza, SHRM, June 27, 2018

In a closely watched case, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned 40 years of precedent by ruling that mandatory public-sector union dues are unconstitutional.

In a 5-4 vote on June 27, the justices held that states and public-sector unions may no longer require workers to pay agency fees. “Neither an agency fee nor any other payment to the union may be deducted from a nonmember’s wages, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay,” Justice Samuel Alito Jr. wrote for the majority.

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the decision will have large-scale consequences. “Public employee unions will lose a secure source of financial support. State and local governments that thought fair-share provisions furthered their interests will need to find new ways of managing their workforces,” she wrote…..

Related:
Decline in Union Membership Expected After High Court Ruling
Source: Lisa Nagele-Piazza, SHRM, June 28, 2018
Supreme Court held that mandatory public-sector union fees are unconstitutional

Right-Wing, Business-Funded Groups Are Preparing to Use the Janus Decision to Bleed Unions, Internal Documents Show

Source: Lee Fang, Nick Surgey, The Intercept, June 30, 2018

Just moments after the Janus vs. AFSCME ruling came down, several conservative think tanks launched campaigns to leverage the pivotal Supreme Court decision as a means of starving unions of funds and eventually disbanding them altogether. The effort is aimed at encouraging public-sector workers in 22 states to withhold minimum bargaining fees from their labor unions, a shift made possible by the Janus decision. As labor comes under attack, the advocacy groups will launch decertification campaigns to nullify certain unions in certain jurisdictions.

Withholding the funds and dismantling the unions could have profound effects on American politics — a feature, not a bug, of the conservative activism following Janus. Many public-sector unions and the activists who work with them are affiliated with the Democratic Party, and the organizing they carry out is dependent on the hundreds of millions of dollars they expect to collect in union fees in the coming years…..

Supreme Court Rules Against Public-Sector Unions

Source: Colleen Flaherty, Inside HigherEd, June 28, 2018

High court says public employees don’t have to pay regular agency fees to unions that represent them in collective bargaining and more, which could hurt faculty and staff unions.

Related:
Janus, Faced
Source: Matt Reed, Inside HigherEd, Confessions of a Community College Dean blog, June 27, 2018

The ruling on unions.
A friend in grad school once commented that she and I followed the Supreme Court the same way that normal people follow baseball. So yes, I’ve been mulling over the Janus v AFSCME case for months. Longer, in fact, if you count the version that didn’t get decided when Scalia died.

I’ve been working in unionized public higher education since 2003. At all three community colleges, and in both states, representation fees were part of the order of the day. I’ve known faculty who swear that the union is the only thing standing between them and penury, and I’ve known faculty who wanted absolutely nothing to do with their union. Having also worked in a decidedly non-union setting — DeVry — I’ve seen the differences. But here I’ll focus instead on possible long-term fallout. Assuming the ruling stands for a while, what’s likely to happen?

The obvious immediate impact will be that the folks who only pay representation fees because they’re compelled to, will stop. Anecdotally, I’d guess that this is a small, but non-zero, number. That will represent lost income for the union, and a short-term boost in take-home pay for those employees.
What happens next is less obvious.

Teachers’ activism will survive the Janus Supreme Court ruling
Source: Sherman Dorn, The Conversation, June 27, 2018

….As a scholar of the history of post-World War II education policy, I see this decision as an important landmark in the history of teachers unions. The Supreme Court ruling is a serious legal and financial blow, but it will not kill public employee unions, teachers unions – or the ability of teachers to work together to amplify their voices for social change….

Trump’s Supreme Court Strikes Blow to Government Workers, Good Paying Jobs
Source: Mary Bottari, Center for Media and Democracy, June 27, 2018

In a major blow to organized labor and good paying government jobs, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that government workers who choose not to join a union cannot be charged fees to reimburse the union for the cost of representing them in collective bargaining.

The decision was 5-4 in the Janus vs. AFSCME Council 31 case, with Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch supplying the deciding vote. Justice Samuel Alito, who actively invited a challenge to union fees, wrote the decision for the Court’s right-wing majority.

In today’s decision, Alito wrote that the fees, called “agency fees,” violated the First Amendment. In doing so, Alito overruled a 41-year-old Supreme Court decision legalizing these fees in the Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education decision.

The decision ushers in “right to work” style conditions for public employees in states across the nation. These anti-union measures originated in the Jim Crow South as a means of undermining unions who were organizing black and white workers together in the same shop. Predictably, Koch brothers groups–such as Americans for Prosperity, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the State Policy Network–cheered the ruling, while union leaders prepared to renegotiate thousands of contracts and deal with a new legal landscape for unions across the land.

Janus decision extends First Amendment ‘right of silence’
Source: Robert A. Sedler, The Conversation, June 27, 2018

The Supreme Court’s Janus ruling extends strong protection to the First Amendment ‘right of silence’ and continues their trend of expanding First Amendment rights, often at the behest of conservatives.

Nevada’s unions show how organized labor can flourish even after an adverse Supreme Court ruling

Source: Ruben J. Garcia, The Conversation, June 28, 2018

American labor unions have long been bracing for a “post-Janus” future in which collecting dues would be harder than ever.

The Janus case has been moving through the courts for two years and addresses the question of whether a public employee can be forced to pay dues to a union that represents him or her.

On June 27, the Supreme Court said no, which means the much-feared poorer future is now upon organized labor. While some pundits argue that this may “cripple” certain unions across the country, my research in Nevada suggests it doesn’t have to be that way.

Nevada unions have been operating under this very constraint for 65 years and yet have managed to thrive. As such, I believe they offer three important lessons for labor unions in other states as they grapple with an indisputably bleak legal environment…..

Janus v. Democracy

Source: Joseph A. McCartin, Dissent, June 27, 2018

The Janus decision is a significant setback for democracy. What should public-sector workers do now? …. By squelching democracy both at the polls and in the workplace, the Court has sown a bitter wind. Recent uprisings by teachers in states like Oklahoma and West Virginia, which already banned union fees, suggest that it might one day reap a whirlwind…..

6 excerpts that explain the Supreme Court’s big anti-union ruling

Source: Dylan Matthews, Vox, June 27, 2018

Janus v. AFSCME is a very, very big deal. ….

…. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court issued what is probably its single most consequential ruling of the year. Janus v. AFSCME is a devastating blow against public sector unions, barring them from charging “agency fees” to the public employees for whom they negotiate pay increases and benefit bumps if those employees decline to join the union as full members.

Now, teachers unions, police unions, and more will be forced to lobby public employees to pay full union dues, even though those employees will get the same benefits from the union if they pay nothing at all.

You can read our full explainer on the case here, but it’s worth diving into the actual language of Justice Samuel Alito’s 5-4 majority opinion and Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent in more detail to understand exactly why the Court decided to make the whole United States adopt a “right-to-work” policy when it comes to public employees.

1) The Court has overruled a decision it made in 1977 ….
2) The Court’s conservatives view making public employees pay agency fees as an unacceptable First Amendment violation ….
3) Alito doubts that this decision will hurt public-sector unions as much as they fear ….
4) Alito is deeply worried about the political economy effects of public unions ….
5) Public employee union membership has to be opt-in now, not opt-out ….
6) Kagan argues this ruling throws stare decisis out the window ….

Court Rules Against Unions in Janus

Source: Jeff Hirsch, Workplace Prof blog, June 27, 2018

The Supreme Court has just released its decision in Janus v. AFSCME. I’m not typically the best predictor of what the Court will do, but even I had this one called from the moment Justice Gorsuch was confirmed. The Court, in a 5-4 decision by Justice Alito, overruled its own Abood decision to hold that public-sector union fees are unconstitutional. I won’t repeat how we got to this point (although you can start at my earlier post on the Janus oral argument, which has links on the aborted Friedrichs case, as well as our coverage of 2014’s Harris v. Quinn, in which Alito made clear where he wanted to go on this issue), but the upshot is that public-sector unions nationwide must now operate on an opt-in basis for all union contributions—even contributions that go to core collective-representation services. In other words, the free rider issue that exists for the private sector in right-to-work states now exists for all public-sector workplaces.

The basis for the decision is that dissenting employees’ have a 1st Amendment right not to pay any funds to the union representing them—even for collective bargaining and other work that goes to the benefit of all unit employees. This follows the dicta in Harris, but is a clear departure from the Court’s public-sector employment jurisprudence, which does not look favorably on individual employees’ 1st Amendment claims. In particular, if this case didn’t involve unions, you would expect the Court to hold that concerns about dues paid to a third party are not matters of public concern. This result, to my mind, is the culmination of several related factors: in addition to the strong pro-business bent of this Court, we’ve seen public-sector unions becoming more powerful than their private-sector counterparts, while also becoming strongly aligned with one political party. This has occurred during a period of time in which political antagonism is on the rise and we’ve more jurists appear willing to join that battle. As a result, unions as a whole, but public-sector ones in particular, have been targeted both politically and legally. And they just took a massive loss at the Court today.

Janus, of course, is not the end (although some unions may feel like it right now). Here are some questions I have after the decision—please add more (or responses) in the comments: …..