On June 27, 2018, a narrow five-justice Supreme Court majority, emboldened by a stolen seat, overturned four decades of common-sense precedent in Janus v. AFSCME.
It was the latest misguided action by the most corporate-friendly Court in American history.
Unions are required by law to represent and negotiate on behalf of all workers in a bargaining unit, regardless of whether they are dues-paying members.
For 41 years, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of requiring public sector non-members to pay fair share fees to cover the costs of their representation.
Now workers who contribute nothing will still receive all the benefits of a union contract.
On paper, the plaintiff was one man in Illinois. But in reality, the case was brought by a dark web of corporations and wealthy donors dead set on destroying the freedom of working people to join together in unions and bargain for a better life.
The Court’s use of free speech to justify their radical judicial activism is particularly disturbing. In her dissent, Justice Elana Kagan said: “…the majority’s road runs long. And at every stop are black-robed rulers overriding citizens’ choices. The First Amendment was meant for better things. It was meant not to undermine but to protect democratic governance—including over the role of public-sector unions.”
Janus was not just an attack on workers’ rights. It was an assault on the LGBTQ community. As Miriam Frank and Jared Odessky wrote in the New York Times: “Through collective bargaining agreements with employers, union activists were pioneers of nondiscrimination protections, domestic partner benefits and transgender-inclusive health care coverage that became models for other contracts as well as public policy.”
With unions serving as the first and often only line of defense—especially in the majority of states that still allow anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination—Frank and Odessky say Janus “will have immediate and lasting implications for the livelihoods of queer people.”
Pride at Work condemns Janus in the strongest possible terms and will continue to educate members, especially LGBTQ members, about this case and the unjust burden in puts on public sector unions. But make no mistake, working people will rise above this decision. The corporate narrative of the labor movement’s downfall is being dismantled every single day.
More than 260,000 new members joined unions in 2017, three quarters of them under the age of 35. Labor unions’ popularity has skyrocketed to 61 percent, the highest mark in 15 years. And new research from MIT shows half of all non-union workers would vote to join a union—a 50 percent increase over previous surveys.
LGBTQ workers know firsthand the power of union membership. In the wake of Janus, Pride at Work is committed to organizing and mobilizing like never before.
Submitted by Tim Schlittner, Co-President of Pride at Work with additions by James Larson, Eastern New York Chapter
Approved August 25, 2018