The Supreme Court of the United States just delivered a painful blow to working people and to the unions which stand up for their rights. In a narrow 5 to 4 vote, the justices decided in the Janus v. AFSCME case, that public sector unions must use their resources to represent and protect employees who are not members and who do not contribute to the union.
This ruling is the culmination of decades of attacks on working people by corporate CEOs, the wealthiest 1% and the politicians that do their bidding to rig the economy in their favor.
In the United States, public sector unions are required by law to represent all workers in their unit even if they are not members. Before this ruling, non-members had to pay a fair-share fee, less than full union dues, for the protections and benefits they received from the union.
Post Janus, non-union employees or “free-riders” will still receive protections and services, but do not have to pay anything for these benefits. The case is a clear attempt to cripple the power of unions, by slashing their financial resources.
The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is a large public sector union, but the impact of the decision will go far beyond AFSCME and its members.
Affected unions will include the two US affiliates of EI, the AFT and the NEA.
“We stand in solidarity with our union brothers and sisters in the U.S. as they face the corporate interests who want to silence them. We know you will stand strong and continue to raise your collective voice,” stated EI’s General Secretary, David Edwards.
"The Janus case is not just about the United States. Around the world unions use our collective voice to advocate for policies that benefit all working people. That includes education professionals collectively- fighting for quality public education open to all,” he added.
“This is more than a court case, it’s about CEOs and billionaires who have spent their money and influence trying to destroy the collective power of unions. They want to drive down wages, defund public education and silence democratic voices. We will challenge them at every turn.”
Americans are increasingly working longer hours for less money and fewer benefits, despite being more productive than ever. Too often they have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. No matter how hard they work, many are finding it more and more difficult to get by and provide for their families. This is true for hundred of thousands of teachers and support personnel who in many cases barely make a living wage.
The Janus case is not an accident. It was financed by powerful economic interests who know that when working people have the freedom to speak up together through unions, progress is made that benefits everyone.
Despite these attacks, unions in the United States vow to remain steadfast and to renew their efforts to organise. The power unions represent for working people has been recently on display in West Virginia, Arizona and other areas, where tens of thousands of teachers stood their ground to win changes for themselves and their students.