The Supreme Court Could Decide American Unions’ Fate Early Next Year (Video)

Last year, public sector unions dodged a bullet after the U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked on the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA) case that threatened to eliminate fair share fees, aka union dues, that support strong collective bargaining efforts.

Before that it was the 2014 Harris v. Quinn case.

Now the war on public sector unions has returned with Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which many argue will once and for all determine the fate of already ailing union membership in America.

The nation’s highest court has agreed to hear the case early next year.

Janus challenges a public sector union’s ability to collect fair share, or “agency,” fees from employees who receive representation and bargaining services unions are required to provide.

The question Court justices are going to answer is whether or not union members have the right to refuse to pay dues while still benefiting from the same services paying members receive, like free legal council and financial advising.

If the Court votes in favor of the plaintiff, it would strip bargaining power from American workers, undermining their ability to unify around better wages, benefits, workplace protections and standards for working families, basically turning the entire workforce into a “right-to-work-for less” sector.

AFSCME president Lee Saunders, said:

“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.”

 AFSCME Council 31 member Stephen Mittons, added:

“My work as a child protection investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is vital to the safety of our state’s most vulnerable children and families. This court case is yet another political attack on the freedom of my colleagues and I to speak up to ensure that we can safely and adequately manage our caseloads, which reflects our commitment to safety and public service to our communities.”

The first step toward unions’ permanent collapse is conservative think tanks’ attempt to “defund and defang” collective bargaining.

The State Policy Network (SPN), an alliance of 66 state-based think tanks, or “ideas factories,” boasts a combined annual budget of $80 million for the “breakthrough” purpose of striking a “mortal blow” against American workers.

Its 10-page fundraising letter expresses as much.

In it, SPN CEO Tracie Sharp declares:

“[A] once-in-a-lifetime chance to reverse the failed policies of the American left. We are primed, right now, to deliver the mortal blow to permanently break its stranglehold on our society.”

 Tracking right-wing groups in America is the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). Its deputy director, Mary Bottari, said about the fundraising document:

“It’s very rare to catch conservative think tanks talking so openly and blatantly about their long-term political aims. These documents reveal to us that SPN’s goals are entirely political – they have no concern for workers or union members, their only goal is winning elections to advance right-wing causes. An $80m campaign to ‘defund and defang’ public sector unions is remarkable, both in its size and in its ambition.”

But as blatant as their mission is behind closed doors, these right-wing anti-worker groups publicly couch their intentions in typical right-wing euphemisms, like “rights” and “freedom.”

Jim Miller, a professor of labor studies at San Diego City College, stated:

“When you hear talk about from them about the ‘rights of the individual,’ think about the enshrinement of the 1% to a position of unparalleled political power into the unforeseen future.”

One of the strongest union contingents in the United States are public school teachers.

Sonya Shpilyuk, a high school English teacher in Montgomery County, Maryland, affirmed her union faith when she said:

“More and more, the economy is working against working people, including the families whose children I teach. My union gives me a voice and a seat at the table to advocate for my students, my colleagues, and my community.”

This is nothing more than a corporate assault on democracy, something that runs counter to “America first” positions President Donald Trump ran on last year that helped propel him to the White House.


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Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.