Category Archives: Politics

Public Sector Union Dues: Grappling with Fixed Stars and Stare Decisis (Part I)

Source: Victoria L. Killion, Congressional Research Service, CRS Legal Sidebar, LSB10042, December 4, 2017

The Supreme Court long ago described the First Amendment’s protection against compelled speech as a “fixed star in our constitutional constellation.” This Term, the Court may decide whether it has steered too far from that shining precept in the area of public employee union dues (or agency fees) in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31. Specifically, the Court will consider whether to overrule its 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, in which the Court announced the basic test for determining the validity of “agency shop” arrangements between a union and a government employer. Agency shop arrangements (sometimes called “fair share” provisions) require employees to pay a fee to the union designated to represent their bargaining unit even if the employees are not members of that union. The Abood Court held that these arrangements do not violate the First Amendment insofar as the union uses the fees for “collective bargaining activities” and not “ideological activities unrelated to collective bargaining.” In its October 2015 Term, the full Court heard oral argument on whether to overrule Abood, but ultimately divided four-to-four on this question following the death of Justice Scalia. Now that Justice Gorsuch has joined the bench, it remains to be seen whether a majority of the Court will reaffirm Abood or chart a new course. Part I of this two-part Sidebar provides general background on Abood and the case law leading up to Janus. Part II then discusses the perspectives Justice Gorsuch may bring to Janus and the potential implications of the decision for public sector collective bargaining and compulsory fees more broadly.

Public Sector Union Dues: Grappling with Fixed Stars and Stare Decisis (Part II)
Source: Victoria L. Killion, Congressional Research Service, CRS Legal Sidebar, LSB10041, December 4, 2017

As discussed in Part I of this two-part Sidebar, on March 29, 2016, an eight-member Supreme Court divided equally over whether to overrule its 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and hold that public sector agency fees violate core First Amendment principles (the Court’s “fixed star”). Earlier this Term, the Court agreed to consider the question again in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31. Part II of this Sidebar begins with a brief summary of the parties’ arguments in Janus. It then highlights some key statements from the prior decisions of Justice Gorsuch, who is likely to be a critical voice in deciding whether to overturn Abood. The post concludes by exploring the potential implications of the Janus decision.

Flippable

Source: Flippable, 2018

We’re aiming to flip 100 seats across the country.

We can’t flip Congress without the states.
State governments often draw the district maps for national elections—and controlling that process has given the GOP an unfair advantage. States control voting methods and set voting requirements. When the GOP suppresses votes, Dems lose.

From healthcare to racial justice, the laws that impact our lives the most are often passed by states—not by the federal government.
States chip away at access to reproductive health care and LGBTQIA rights.
– From 2010 to 2016, states passed 338 laws restricting the right to choose.
– In 2016 alone, GOP state politicians introduced 200+ anti-LGBTQIA bills.

States are leading—or standing in the way—of efforts to fight climate change.
– Scientists have found that air pollution is a whole lot worse in states with GOP governors.
– In 2008, nine northeastern states pledged to cut their emissions by 40%—and they followed through. Now they’re working to cut another 30%.

Serving at the state level gets inspiring progressive Dems ready to run for national office.
– Barack Obama, Chuck Schumer, and Maxine Waters all made their way to the national stage via state governments. 
– State offices are a great way for young people, women and people of color, and non-wealthy people to get involved.

Compared to national races, state races are cheap.
Investing in these races is an extremely effective use of our dollars—that’s one big reason the GOP has been doing it for years.

What we’ll do:

Tip the Balance:
What We’ll Do
We’ll target states where winning just a few seats can flip a whole chamber of the state legislature.

Why We’ll Do It
By investing where we can flip a state house, we can enact progressive policies across the country.

Potential 2018 States
Colorado
Maine
Minnesota

Change the Game:
What We’ll Do
We’ll target states with histories of gerrymandering or voter suppression.

Why We’ll Do It
States write the rules of our national elections and control voting requirements. By flipping seats in these states, we can start to restore democracy at both the state and national levels.

Potential 2018 States
Pennsylvania
Michigan
Iowa
Wisconsin
Florida
North Carolina

Turn The Tide:
What We’ll Do
We’ll target states where we can reverse Republican gains and lay the groundwork for future progressive victories.

Why We’ll Do It
We see opportunities in traditionally deep-red states where we can flip seats, make Democratic inroads, and break veto-proof majorities.

Potential 2018 States
Texas
Utah
Arizona

Defend Our Progress:
What We’ll Do
We’ll target states where the state legislatures or governors’ seats are blue, but are at risk of flipping red in 2018.

Why We’ll Do It
Democrats will face threats from GOP challengers in 2018, and we are prepared to help hold on to blue seats.

Potential 2018 States
Washington
Delaware
Oregon

Blue-state Republicans could become almost as rare as white southern Democrats

Source: The Economist, January 4, 2018

If that were to happen, Congress would become even more polarised than it already is. ….

…. She [Barbara Comstock] is one of 23 Republicans representing districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Democrats think they can flip them all, and more: the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has 91 districts in its sights, the lion’s share of them in states that Mrs Clinton won or barely lost. They are, of course, unlikely to win them all. But an upset election, as this year’s midterms in November could easily be, will break first and hardest in those states—which would leave the Republican congressional caucus smaller and more strident, and risks making Congress even more dysfunctional….

Escalating Moral Obligation in the Wisconsin Uprising of 2011

Source: Matthew Kearney, Social Forces, Advance Access, December 28, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study uses insider ethnographic and interview data to examine one of the largest sustained collective actions in the history of the United States—the Wisconsin Uprising of 2011. It finds that this event took a highly unusual form due to a social relation that I term escalating moral obligation, a sense of solidaristic duty that grows increasingly fervent as others struggle on behalf of a shared cause. Each of three active groups within the movement engaged in arduous and unconventional resistance to controversial legislation, and did so in a manner that induced moral debt among the other groups. Fervency of commitment to the cause increased as a result of allies taking risky or self-sacrificial actions. Each group felt obligated to continue difficult mobilization as long as others continued theirs. Escalating moral obligation develops a simultaneously emergent, endogenous, and cognitive dimension of social movements. It is a relational mechanism linking political opportunity with actual mobilization. The political opportunity in this case was a combination of several conditions: an elite cleavage over the desirability of public unions, a more local balance of power allowing dissident legislators to obstruct but not defeat legislation, and an immediate severe popular reaction. This mechanism is potentially generalizable to other risky or arduous protests. When activists are motivated by the sacrifice or risk-taking of allied activists, escalating moral obligation is present. The concept links group-level imperatives with individual-level motivations. Escalating moral obligation shows one way that individual subjectivities can change through group interrelations and emotionally intense interactions.

Can Unions Stop the Far Right?

Source: Vauhini Vara, The Atlantic, December 2017

If it weren’t for working-class voters, Germany’s recent election could have had a different outcome. …. Can the United States learn from Germany’s example? The German system is a product of the country’s culture and history as well as its economic structure, and it may not be possible to replicate in the United States. In fact, some evidence suggests that Germany is moving in America’s direction, not the other way around. In recent decades, the German government has cut back on social benefits that were seen as hampering growth and keeping able-bodied people from working, and unions agreed to slow down wage increases in order to minimize layoffs. Unemployment fell, but inequality rose—a fact that, in the postelection analysis, was cited as one reason for the AfD’s surprising showing. ….

Our Road to Power

Source: Vivek Chibber, Jacobin, December 5, 2017

The twentieth century left socialists plenty of lessons. Will we heed them? ….

….One hundred years removed from the Russian Revolution, we’re in a moment unlike any in decades. With both neoliberalism and social democracy’s traditional parties in disrepute, new opportunities are finally emerging for the radical left…..

So … About Socialism

Source: John Donvan – Guest Host, WAMU, 1A, January 4, 2018

Audio

Socialism is on the rise in the United States. And for many in the new generation of voters, that’s just fine. …. Is this a new socialist movement, or a natural political evolution? How does the socialism of today differ from that of the past? And what effects might this renewed interest have on public policy? ….

Guests:
Bhaskar Sunkara – Editor and publisher, Jacobin magazine

David Weigel – National political correspondent, Washington Post

Kshama Sawant – Seattle City Councilmember, central seattle; Member, Socialist Alternative