Quolke’s Corner – Janus
Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King was in Memphis, Tennessee supporting sanitation workers that were on strike for better working conditions. He was fighting against poverty and the best way to do that is through empowering the worker and bringing voice to the working men and women of this country. That is the way to improve the wages and conditions for workers. Dr. King knew that the fight for workers rights, civil rights, and voting rights were interconnected and must be driven into the American conscious.
Now 50 years later, we are facing a grave threat to workers, to workers rights, and workers voice. Today as a union we face a vast oligarchy that is spending millions of dollars to try to eliminate unions. The workers voice for advocacy, justice, and fairness. The goal is to cripple labor unions, weaken workers’ rights, and further exacerbate the imbalance of power in our economic, political, and social systems.
Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 is a case that will be decided by the Supreme Court soon. Their ruling will impact all union workers across this country. If the Court rules against AFSCME and in favor of special interests, this will impact the CTU and each one of our members. It is not an exaggeration to say that each and every one of us will be impacted by the weight of this decision. Here is information about the case that is important for all members to be aware of.
WHO IS BEHIND JANUS v. AFSCME COUNCIL 31? This is a concerted effort amount special interests and big business to destroy unions in the United States. The conservative State Policy Network has pledged tens of millions to “defund and defang” America’s labor movement. We all know that the Koch brothers have spent hundreds of millions to undermine public education. They are joined by other right wing organizations such as Donors Trust, the Mercer Family Foundation, and the Barney Family Foundation to help fund the cost of bringing this case before the Supreme Court. During oral arguments before the Supreme Justice Sonia Sotomayor recognized this as a desire by the right wing to entirely gut collective bargaining for public workers.
WHO IS JANUS? Mark Janus is a union member who is being used as a frontman for this case. He is a union member. The claim is that being required to pay a fair share fee to even when a person does want to join a union is a violation of his First Amendment rights. AFT President Randi Weingarten describes it perfectly:
“This case isn’t about Mark Janus—it’s a ruse funded by the Kochs, the Bradleys, the DeVoses and other anti-union oligarchs to deny working folks the opportunity for a better life. Unions help make possible what would be impossible for individuals acting alone: living wages and a decent retirement, safe and welcoming public schools, affordable college and healthcare, and a voice in our democracy. They’re attacking us because they see a strong labor movement as a threat to their wealth and power.” Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers
WHAT IS FAIR SHARE & WHO PAYS FAIR SHARE? In 26 states (including Ohio) members that do not want to belong to the union are required to pay fees for union services that benefit all members like collective bargaining, grievances, and arbitrations. These fees are called fair share fees. Fair share fees have been in place for over 70 years. These fees were upheld in a 1977 ruling known as Abood. 24 states have gutted unions and collective bargaining for public workers by passing laws known as “Right to Work” laws. These misleading law changes have lead workers to lower wages, higher healthcare rates, reduced pensions, and poorer working conditions. A bad ruling in the Janus case will basically make all of the U.S. a “Right to Work” nation.
The right wing is actually taking things farther with the Janus case. This case would eliminate fair share fees altogether. If the right wing oligarchs win this case, then members would be able to not join the union, not pay dues, and not pay fair share fees while reaping all of the benefits that full dues paying members reap.
HOW WILL THIS RULING IMPACT INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS? Colleagues that choose not to belong to the union while gaining benefits, weaken the strength of the union. This poses a grave threat to the unions’ advocacy, collective bargaining, grievance handling, and member services. AFSCME President Lee Saunders put it this way:
“This case is yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor. When working people are able to join strong unions, they have the strength in numbers they need to fight for the freedoms they deserve, like access to quality health care, retirement security and time off work to care for a loved one. T – Lee Saunders, President, AFSCME
WHEN IS THE DECISION ON JANUS EXPECTED?
The Supreme Court will issue all decisions for cases that they have heard before they end their session for the summer (June). The Janus decision could be anytime between now and June. Most big decisions like this are announced close to the end of the session. President Trump’s appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch almost all but assured of a ruling against public sector unions.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE MEAN TIME?
The CTU and other public sector labor unions have been conducting recommitment campaigns across the country. Or goal is to send a strong signal that we are united in support of maintain our voice and defending our rights through our union. CTU Chapter Chairs have collected thousands of recommitment membership forms and we hope to have 100% of our members recommitting to the CTU by the end of the school year.
We will keep you updated on this important court case.