Tuesday, 26 October, 2021


Supreme Court to Decide Fate of Public-Sector Unions

Protecting our communities means keeping our unions strong Supreme Court to Decide Fate of Public-Sector Unions
Bennie Garza | 26 February, 2018, 09:09

Activists, labor unions, and community leaders are rallying in the city and across the country for workers' rights Saturday ahead of a pivotal Supreme Court case some say could damage unions.

A march was followed by a rally at the Luzerne County Courthouse in Wilkes-Barre Sunday.

Past year the court was deadlocked, 4-4, when deciding the case, referred to as Janus vs. AFSCME.

"We believe in the unions, and we want to preserve everything that the men and women fought for before us, and it's our responsibility to maintain that", said Steve Duc of Dalton.

Demonstrators were supporting the union AFSCME, which is engaged in a court battle that has made its way to the Supreme Court. The court failed to resolve the issue in early 2016 in Friedrichs v. California Teachers' Association.

Many Democrats are, or say they are, distraught about "big money" and there being "too much" money in political campaigns. The plaintiff in the case, IL resident Mark Janus, has argued that such fees - called "fair share" payments, which are generally less than member dues - violate his First Amendment rights because they force him to support organized labor. He argues that the First Amendment protects him from having to support such political expression. And in a concurring opinion, Justice Lewis Powell noted that "the ultimate objective of a union in the public sector, like that of a political party, is to influence public decision-making".

He said in an interview he is not a member of a political party and his objection to the fees was not based on politics. "If I don't pay, I lose my job", Janus said.

A ruling in his favor could have wide-reaching effects on public sector labor unions around the country, argues famed labor organizer, Dolores Huerta.

"This case is about power", American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said.

Twenty-four states have agency fee requirements.

Janus v. AFSCME started working its way through the USA court system in 2015.

On the other side, the Buckeye Institute's Robert Alt points to growing union membership in a number of right-to-work states.

In private-sector collective bargaining, management and labor negotiate about how to distribute companies' profits.

Though public employee unions now have almost as many members as in the private sector (7.2 million vs. 7.6 million), the number of public union members as a percentage of the work force is six times higher than in the private sector.

Unions are preparing for this possible setback by doing more aggressive internal organizing, hoping to drum up new membership, and also hope that local governments could come up with new ways to facilitate fee collection, labor experts told ThinkProgress in January.

"Public employee unions have become powerful in many states, shutting out other voices like the voice of small businesses who can not afford more costly regulations or higher taxes", Karen Harned, the group's executive director said.

Taking away mandatory agency fees could have profound implications for public-sector union coffers.

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