On June 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that nonmembers cannot be mandated to pay fees to their public sector unions in the case Janus v. AFSCME Council 31. The Court’s ruling is a major setback for public sector unions, including those that represent healthcare workers, firefighters, paramedics, public school teachers, childcare workers, and public university employees, among others. Although the ruling does not directly affect members of private sector unions such as HUCTW, there is reason for serious concern about its potential consequences for all working people in the U.S. in the longer term.
The case was spearheaded by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW), an anti-union group funded largely by CEOs and corporate interest groups. Their goal is to weaken unions and take away the bargaining power of workers. In many states where the “right to work” agenda has been successful, employee wages and benefits are shrinking – not only among public employees, but among private sector workers as well. Many “right to work” states have some of the highest poverty rates in the country, as well as some of the largest gender wage-gaps, particularly among people of color.
AFSCME Council 31, the union named in this case, is the Illinois chapter of our parent union, AFSCME International. AFSCME International President Lee Saunders issued a strong statement in response to the Janus ruling. Below is an excerpt:
“Teachers, sanitation workers, emergency medical technicians and corrections officers: They provide professional public services every day that keep their communities safe and strong. But with its decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, the Supreme Court has rolled back their freedom to negotiate a fair return on their work by standing together in a strong union.
But we are unfazed by these attacks. We are too busy building power. At AFSCME over the past few years, we have held nearly 900,000 one-on-one conversations with members about the importance of recommitting to their union. Nearly 18,000 public service workers have joined AFSCME through new organizing drives…
The court’s decision in Janus cannot stop this momentum. If anything, it will accelerate it, triggering a backlash that further emboldens union members to stick together — in a way sure to make a difference in November’s elections. The labor movement is bigger than one Supreme Court decision. The labor movement is bigger than one Supreme Court decision. We will continue to raise our voice, with greater energy and passion than ever, to take on the rigged economy and assert our rights and freedoms.”
—Lee Saunders, President, AFSCME
HUCTW is united with AFSCME in these goals — and the Court’s ruling only serves to strengthen the importance of strong, growing, innovative unions, like ours.
To learn more about the case and its potential ramifications, please see the links below.
- Brief summary of the Janus case (AFSCME)
- What the Janus v. AFSCME Decision Means for Unions (Alanda, Semuels, The Atlantic)
- Fewer Unions, Lower Pay for Everyone (Alana Semuels, The Atlantic)
- IMF Agrees: Decline of Union Power Has Increased Income Inequality (Muchael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times)
Please reach out to your HUCTW organizer or the HUCTW office if you have questions: https://huctw.org/about-us/contact-huctw