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: …..

The Face Behind the Case: Janus v. AFSCME, Dark Money, and the Future of Labor

Source: Mansoor Khan, Los Angeles Review of Books blog, June 3, 2018

…. 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. ….

Democrats Must Stop Pretending the Supreme Court Is Apolitical

Source: Sean McElwee, The Nation, June 26, 2018

The party has largely avoided talking about the radical nature of the Roberts Court.

For all the heists and scams of the Trump era, perhaps the greatest theft occurred before he even took office. And Mitch McConnell was the perpetrator. “They stole a Supreme Court seat, and they’ve installed union-buster Neil Gorsuch on the bench. And now their investment is paying off,” as Senator Elizabeth Warren said recently.

Indeed it is. So far this year the Court has delivered blow after to blow to workers: Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis made it far more difficult for workers to use the legal system to remedy abuses. On Monday, the Court upheld racist gerrymanders and gutted antitrust enforcement. Tuesday, the Court upheld Trump’s Muslim ban and blocked a California law that “crisis pregnancy centers” had to provide information about abortions. As Democratic contenders for 2020 are staking out positions like a federal job guarantee and Medicare for All, the threat of a Supreme Court that could reverse progressive legislative accomplishments looms large.

In perhaps the biggest blow to the working class for this term, the Court ruled Wednesday in Janus v. AFSCME that public-sector workers do not have to pay “fair share” union fees to support collective-bargaining activities. The decision went even further than many observers expected by making these fees opt-in, rather than opt-out. This dramatically dims the economic prospects for public-sector workers nationwide, but also delivers a hammer blow to Democrats and progressive politics—as President Trump was unafraid to declare on Twitter following the decision: “Big loss for the coffers of the Democrats!”….

The Anti-Union Janus Ruling Is Going to Hit Black Women the Hardest

Source: Miles Kampf-Lassin, In These Times blog, June 27, 2018

…. 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. ….

After Janus: The Impending Effects on Public Sector Workers from a Decision Against Fair Share

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.

Business-Labor-Ideology Split in Lobbying

Source: Open Secrets, June 25, 2018

In Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court considers whether unions can charge “agency fees” to employees who did not join the union, but benefit from collective bargaining. In addition to the breakdown between business and labor spending on campaign contributions here, here we provide a data set showing how lobbying spending breaks down between business and labor. Click here to see the data

The Union Advantage for Women

Source: Elyse Shaw, Julie Anderson, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, C463, February 2018

From the summary:
Labor unions deserve credit for many of the workplace policies that Americans now take for granted—a 40-hour work week, a minimum wage, pay for overtime, and protections from health and safety hazards—and the labor movement continues to champion state and local policies such as paid sick days and paid family leave, policies that are beneficial to all working women and families. Because hiring, pay, and promotion criteria and decisions are more transparent for union members, gender and racial bias is minimized. Women, and especially women of color, who are either affiliated with a union or whose job is covered by a union contract, earn higher wages and are much more likely to have employer-provided health insurance than women who are not in unions.  

Among women working full-time, those in unions have median weekly earnings of $942, compared with $723 for non-union workers, an increase of $219, or 30 percent (Figure 1). For all of the major racial and ethnic groups of women, median earnings are higher when comparing full-time workers in unions with full-time non-union workers. The earnings advantage is largest for Hispanic women. Non-union Hispanic women have the lowest earnings of any racial/ethnic group of women, $565 weekly, but Hispanic women in unions earn $264 more weekly, a 47 percent increase, than those who are not.

Fentanyls and the safety of first responders: Science and recommendations

Source: John Howard, Jennifer Hornsby‐Myers, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: 25 June 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Opioids have many beneficial uses in medicine, but, taken inappropriately, they can cause life‐threatening health effects. The increasing use of physician‐prescribed and illicit opioids, including highly potent fentanyl and its analogs, have contributed to a significant increase in opioid‐related drug overdoses in the United States, leading to a public health emergency. There have been a number of reports describing adverse health effects experienced by police officers, fire‐fighter emergency medical services providers, and private sector ambulance personnel when responding to drug overdose incidents. Several sets of exposure prevention recommendations for first responders are available from government and the private sector. Understanding the scientific basis for these recommendations, increasing awareness by responders of the potential risks associated with opioid exposure during a response, and educating responders about safe work practices when exposure to opioids is suspected or confirmed are all critical prevention measures that can keep first responders safe.