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Groups Blast Supreme Court's Anti-Labor Decision

Credit supremecourt.gov

Commentary: Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), issued the following statement on today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision undermining the effectiveness and strength of public sector labor unions:

 

“Today’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME is another right-wing, tortured misreading of the First Amendment to bolster the power of the wealthy, individual and corporate, in our country. The decision is a blow to collective action, both formal and informal, undermining some of the critical tools of social change upon which the Latino community, as so many others, has relied and still relies.

 

“The immediate impact of today’s majority decision will fall upon public sector unions, which have forged and defended a path from working poor to middle class that many Latino families have followed. On a personal note, I grew up as the son of two public sector union members. My father was a longtime member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and my mother was a member of the California School Employees Association (ESEA) for many years. I know that my path to a legal career would have been many times more difficult but for these unions’ protection of our family’s livelihood.

 

“Public sector unions have, in recent decades, also been strong and staunch supporters of civil rights and anti-discrimination efforts. These efforts, as much as anything, are what made the public-sector unions a right-wing target, resulting in today’s decision.

 

“Like Citizens United before it, Janus will immediately become an epithet and rallying cry as people work to minimize the decision’s effect and to restore a fair and true reading of the First Amendment. MALDEF is committed to support those efforts.”

 

AFT New Mexico:

Today, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in the Janus v. AFSCME case, which has been heralded by proponents as a ‘death blow’ to organized labor and unions.

In short, the 5-4 ruling decided overturned the Abood decision that – for 40 years – was the law of the land and affirmed numerous times. While we – both in New Mexico and at AFT Headquarters in Washington DC – are still evaluating the complete ruling, we do know a few things already:

1: The ruling by the US Supreme Court in the Janus v. AFSCME case is not the demise of organized labor in the United States, or in New Mexico. The ruling is, however, yet another attack on bedrock principles of our country, namely the rights of workers to organize, advocate for fairer working conditions, and collectively use our voice to advocate for respect for our professions. In making this ruling, this activist court has turned over 40 years of judicial precedent.

2: Our union will remain strong. The reality for AFT New Mexico is that our membership is nearly 100% voluntary, and very few of the educators we represent will be impacted by this decision. Our collective voices as educators will remain strong in the wake of Janus, and we will redouble our efforts to grow our ranks and intensify our efforts to combat each and every attack on working New Mexicans and public education.

3: Be assured that our union will explore every avenue to see if there is recourse for this blatant effort to bust the unions of American workers.

In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the following:

Rarely if ever has the Court overruled a decision—let alone one of this import—with so little regard for the usual principles of stare decisis. There are no special justifications for reversing Abood. It has proved workable. No recent developments have eroded its underpinnings. And it is deeply entrenched, in both the law and the real world. More than 20 States have statutory schemes built on the decision. Those laws underpin thousands of ongoing contracts involving millions of employees. Reliance interests do not come any stronger than those surrounding Abood. And likewise, judicial disruption does not get any greater than what the Court does today. I respectfully dissent …

There is no sugarcoating today’s opinion. The majority overthrows a decision entrenched in this Nation’s law— and in its economic life—for over 40 years. As a result, it prevents the American people, acting through their state and local officials, from making important choices about workplace governance. And it does so by weaponizing the First Amendment, in a way that unleashes judges, now and in the future, to intervene in economic and regulatory policy …

Abood provided a workable standard for courts to apply. And Abood has generated enormous reliance interests. The majority has overruled Abood for no exceptional or special reason, but because it never liked the decision. It has overruled Abood because it wanted to …

Because, that is, it wanted to pick the winning side in what should be—and until now, has been—an energetic policy debate. Some state and local governments (and the constituents they serve) think that stable unions promote healthy labor relations and thereby improve the provision of services to the public. Other state and local governments (and their constituents) think, to the contrary, that strong unions impose excessive costs and impair those services. Americans have debated the pros and cons for many decades—in large part, by deciding whether to use fair-share arrangements. Yesterday, 22 States were on one side, 28 on the other (ignoring a couple of inbetweeners).

Today, that healthy—that democratic— debate ends. The majority has adjudged who should prevail. Indeed, the majority is bursting with pride over what it has accomplished: Now those 22 States, it crows, “can follow the model of the federal government and 28 other States.” Ante, at 47, n. 27.

And maybe most alarming, the majority has chosen the winners by turning the First Amendment into a sword, and using it against workaday economic and regulatory policy. Today is not the first time the Court has wielded the First Amendment in such an aggressive way … And it threatens not to be the last.

Speech is everywhere—a part of every human activity (employment, health care, securities trading, you name it). For that reason, almost all economic and regulatory policy affects or touches speech. So 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.

Should you want to read the complete opinion of the majority justices, authored by Justice Alito, and the dissent, authored by Justice Kagan, you can click here.

As we learn more about today’s ruling, we will communicate it to you, but please ensure you also watch AFT NM’s social media sites for additional information and tools.

Regarding today’s decision, AFT President Randi Weingarten, stated the following:

“This is a dark day in U.S. jurisprudence. Swung by a Trump-appointed justice with a long history of ruling for the wealthy and corporations over regular people, the Supreme Court overturned a 40-year unanimously decided precedent that has given teachers and firefighters, nurses and cops, a path to a better life for themselves and their communities.

“More than forty years ago, the court recognized that collective bargaining for teachers and other public sector workers benefits those workers, their employers and their communities. Union representation, if chosen by a majority, is the glue that holds us together. That wisdom has now been abandoned by the slimmest majority.

 

“The dissenting justices saw this case for what it really was—a warping and weaponizing of the First Amendment, absent any evidence or reason, to hurt working people. Not only was Abood well within the mainstream of First Amendment law, it has been affirmed six times and applied to other cases upholding bar fees for lawyers and student activity fees at public colleges.”

We must make sure that unions stay strong in America, and Randi’s words remain true today – we are the last line of defense for working people in our country.

NEA

America needs unions now more than ever as Supreme Court sides with corporate billionaires, rigging economy against workers

On heels of high-profile walkouts, new organizing and spiking approval for unions, union leaders see decision as rallying point to unrig economy and put workers first

WASHINGTON — The following statement was issued by leaders and members of NEA, AFSCME, SEIU and AFT following the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to rule against working people and in favor of billionaire CEOs and corporate interests in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, holding that requiring fair-share fees in the public sector violates the First Amendment of the Constitution.

As millions of American workers recommit to their unions and launch new organizing drives and as support for labor unions has risen to its highest level in years, it is shameful that the billionaire CEOs and corporate special interests behind this case have succeeded in manipulating the highest court in the land to do their bidding. This case was nothing more than a blatant political attack to further rig our economy and democracy against everyday Americans in favor of the wealthy and powerful.

Public service workers — teachers, social workers, firefighters, 911 operators — are more determined than ever to stick together in their unions. Unions remain the most effective vehicle for the power in numbers working people need to secure their rights and freedoms, and provide a pathway to the middle class. We will remain a strong and vibrant force for working people, and will continue fighting to sustain our families, improve our workplaces and to make our communities stronger regardless of the court’s ruling.  

Today’s decision sends our economy in the wrong direction. But it is also a rallying point. We call on elected leaders and candidates to do everything in their power to make it easier to unite in unions and build more power for all working people.

Union leader and member responses:

“Today’s radical decision by the Supreme Court is a blatant slap in the face for educators, nurses, firefighters, police officers and all public servants who make our communities strong and safe. We are living in a system that is rigged to benefit special interests and billionaires, all at the expense of working people. Those behind this case know that unions amplify workers’ voices and transform their words into powerful and collective action. Even though the Supreme Court sided with corporate CEOs and billionaires over working Americans, unions will continue to be the best vehicle on the path to the middle class.” —Lily Eskelsen García, President, National Education Association (NEA)

“Fine arts programs were being cut from my school and students were missing out on subjects like arts and music. My union negotiated with the district to bring back music so our students could have a well-rounded curriculum. When some school principals tried to renege on the agreement, as a union, we stepped up. Educators came together through our union and spoke out for what our kids need. Strong unions build strong schools and strong communities. We need unions now more than ever.” —Alex Price, band director and instrumental music teacher, Belmont High School and Wright Brothers Middle School in Dayton, Ohio

“Unions will always be the most effective force and vehicle to propel working people into the middle class. Despite this unprecedented and nefarious political attack — designed to further rig the rules against working people — nothing changes the fact that America needs unions now more than ever. We are more resolved than ever to fight like hell to win for our members and the communities they care so much about. AFSCME members don’t do this work to get rich. They do it because it’s a calling — and for that service, they deserve respect. They deserve the same freedoms as the CEOs and billionaires who continue to rig the rules against everyone else. The American labor movement lives on, and we’re going to be there every day, fighting hard for all working people, our freedoms and for our country.” —Lee Saunders, President, American Federation of State County Municipal Employees (AFSCME)

“No court case, win or lose, could ever change how important my work and service is to me and the community I care about. My union gives me the strength, freedom and the tools I need to help people and to provide for my family. That’s why I’ll always stick with my coworkers, no matter what. We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing: organizing and talking to coworkers and community members, building power for working people.” —Stephen Mittons, AFSCME Council 31 member, Child Protection Investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

“This decision is yet another example of how billionaires rig the system against working people, but SEIU members won’t let the extremists behind this case divide us. We will stay united, help workers who are fighting to form unions, and call on our elected leaders to do everything in their power to make it easier for working people to join together in unions.” —Mary Kay Henry, President, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

“My coworkers and I are not going to let this court decision stop us from sticking together in our union. We know that we are stronger together, and that matters when we are working to ensure our community is resilient when faced with disasters like earthquakes or floods. We won’t let any court case, billionaire, or propaganda campaign divide us.” —Sara Campos, public health emergency preparedness specialist, SEIU Local 503 in Salem, Oregon

“Don’t count us out. While today the thirst for power trumped the aspirations and needs of communities and the people who serve them, workers are sticking with the union because unions are still the best vehicle working people have to get ahead. Strong unions create strong communities. We will continue fighting, caring, showing up and voting, to make possible what is impossible for individuals acting alone. And we will continue to make that case — in the halls of statehouses and the court of public opinion, in our workplaces and communities, and at the ballot box in November — through organizing, activism and members recommitting to their union.

“This is a dark day in U.S. jurisprudence. Swung by a Trump-appointed justice with a long history of ruling for the wealthy and corporations over regular people, the Supreme Court overturned a 40-year unanimously decided precedent that has given teachers and firefighters, nurses and cops, a path to a better life for themselves and their communities.

"Forty years ago, the court recognized that collective bargaining for teachers and other public sector workers benefits those workers, their employers and their communities. Union representation, if chosen by a majority, is the glue that holds us together. That wisdom has now been abandoned by the slimmest majority. The dissenting justices saw this case for what it really was — a warping and weaponizing of the First Amendment, absent any evidence or reason, to hurt working people. Not only was Abood well within the mainstream of First Amendment law, it has been affirmed six times and applied to other cases upholding bar fees for lawyers and student activity fees at public colleges.” —Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

“Regardless of the Supreme Court ruling, the teachers in our district will stick together to make sure we have a say in the future of our kids. We are a small union in a rural and conservative part of Ohio. There are 84 teachers in our school district, and all but one are full dues-paying members — because we know that teachers’ ability to create a safe learning environment for kids and make teaching a viable profession comes directly from being part of a strong union.” —Holly Kimpon, a high school biology and anatomy teacher, AFT member and president of the Genoa Area Education Association in Ohio

Follow the conversation on social media at #UNION

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About the National Education Association
The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. Learn more at www.nea.org.

American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees
AFSCME’s 1.6 million members provide the vital services that make America happen. With members in hundreds of different occupations — from nurses to corrections officers, child care providers to sanitation workers — AFSCME advocates for fairness in the workplace, excellence in public services and prosperity and opportunity for all working families. More information is available online at www.afscme.org.

Service Employees International Union
SEIU unites 2 million diverse members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. SEIU members working in the healthcare industry, public sector and property services believe in the power of joining together on the job to win higher wages and benefits and to create better communities while fighting for a more just society and an economy that works for all of us, not just corporations and the wealthy. Learn more at www.seiu.org.

American Federation of Teachers
The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators. Go to www.aft.org for more information.

Washington, D.C. - Today, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) released the following statement condemning the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31:

“Unions are the backbone of the middle class in America, and sadly, today’s decision is a slap in the face to millions of middle class families. For decades, unions have ensured that workers, empowered by the right to organize, secured hard-fought victories to improve life for their families. This court case was led by anti-worker billionaires with one mission - to destroy unions so that corporations can get out of paying their workers fair wages and benefits,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva. “This ruling is a direct assault on teachers, firefighters and police officers at a time when the majority of the American public stands firmly behind striking teachers fighting for the very thing unions support – fair wages, benefits, and adequate leave policies.  Democrats will not stand idly by while conservatives, through a stolen Supreme Court seat, attack the rights of the middle class in this country.  I continue to stand with unions, protect their rights to organize, and fight for policies that create strong pathways of upward mobility that strengthen working families for generations to come.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME will have far-reaching effects for millions of American workers. The fact is that when unions are strong, workers have better wages, better working conditions, and ultimately, better lives. However, when unions are under attack and weakened by corporate and special interests, workers suffer. Today, President Trump and the GOP’s donors won the latest battle in stripping protections for workers and further rigging the system in favor of millionaires and billionaires,” said Rep. Mark Pocan. “Earlier this year, I introduced the Workplace Democracy Act, legislation that restores real bargaining rights to workers and repeals the right to work laws like those that Governor Walker has used to undercut American workers. We must stand up for the millions of middle class families who are under attack by Republican leaders and rulings like the one delivered today by the Supreme Court.”

“As a 30-year union member and a lifelong resident of Wisconsin, I have witnessed first-hand the positive effects that unions can have on people’s lives, as well as the destructive results when politicians, like Wisconsin’s own Scott Walker, attack worker’s rights,” Rep. Pocan continued. “Despite today’s Supreme Court ruling, I’m committed to fighting for public employees and ensuring that unions can continue to make a difference in working peoples’ lives.

 

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The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) is the largest caucus within the House Democratic Caucus, with over 70 members standing up for progressive ideals in Washington and throughout the country. Since 1991, the CPC has advocated for progressive policies that prioritize working Americans over corporate interests, fight economic and social inequality, and promote civil liberties. The CPC champions progressive policy solutions like comprehensive immigration reform, a $15 national minimum wage, fair trade, gun violence reform, debt-free college, and making the federal government a Model Employer.