North America and the Caribbean

published 24 May 2018 updated 31 May 2018

North America and the Caribbean

The Janus vs. AFSME case in the US

As part of larger right-wing campaigns against trade unions in the United States, several attempts have been made over the years to make illegal any requirement that public employees pay fees related to the services that they receive if they are not union members. State laws require trade unions to represent all employees in bargaining units in collective bargaining. They must also defend individual grievances of workers regardless of whether they are members.

The current case before the US Supreme Court is Janus vs. AFSME. The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees is a large public sector union, but they impact of the decision will go far beyond AFSME and its members. Affected unions will include the two US affiliates of EI, the AFT and the NEA. The case was heard on 26 February. A similar case that went before the court in 2017 resulted in a 4-4 tie. However, with Senate confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch, a nominee of President Trump, the Supreme Court now has its full nine members.

If the Supreme Court sides with Janus and authorises workers to enjoy the same benefits as union members, but without paying any fees, it is expected to cause reduction in the size and strength of public sector trade unions as “free riders” stop paying fees.

Privatisation of work of tutors at TELUQ University in Quebec

On January 10, members of Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec(FNEEQ-CSN) at TÉLUQ University indicated their readiness to go on strike, if necessary, to protect their university from a threat of privatisation. As part of cost cutting measures, the management of TÉLUQ University announced its intention to strip university tutors of up to 75% of their tasks. Their work would be transferred to private sub-contractors resulting in layoffs and further precarious employment in the sector.