The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, July 13, 2018

Dems unveil legislation to make it easier for public workers to organize

By The Building Tradesman

By Mark Gruenberg
PAI Staff Writer

Defiant union members and leaders vowed to fight back against the corporate class behind the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, by organizing even more, both among state and local workers who are already unionists and among non-unionists in those fields, too.

And they’ll have to: In the 5-4 ruling in Janus vs AFSCME District Council 31, the court’s 5-man GOP-named majority ruled every single state and local government worker nationwide can be a “free rider,” able to use union services without paying one red cent for them. 

Justice Samuel Alito said forcing those workers to pay anything – even “agency fees” by non-members – violates their 1st Amendment free speech rights.

Janus is expected to cost unions and their allies millions of dollars in “fair share” fees from non-members, now represented by unions, who must pay for bargaining and contract enforcement, but no more – and from tens of thousands of members who will drop out. 

Calculations by the University of Illinois labor studies institute put that number at 726,000 nationwide. Union leaders on a press conference call predicted their organizations would take an immediate, but small, hit, in membership. They added they’re busy re-signing current members and reaching out to prospective ones to convince them to join the union.  

Unlimited free ridership is also expected to cost individual union members $1,800 each – or more – in wages over time, that study says.

The right-wing greeted the ruling with glee. GOP President Donald Trump, for example, tweeted it would financially harm the Democratic Party. Ideological GOP rightists who control the House Education and the Workforce Committee claimed it gives “freedom” to workers. 

Unions responded by blasting the corporate class, which they said used Janus to rob workers not just of their rights, but of their power to oppose the corporate agenda and to preserve a middle-class standard of living. The union leaders also renewed their organizing vows. 

The court majority “abandons decades of common-sense precedent. In this case, a bare majority of the court, over the vigorous dissent of four justices, has conceded to the dark web of corporations and wealthy donors who wish to take away the freedoms of working people,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said. 

And one union leader on the press conference call with the Teachers, the Service Employees, AFSCME and the National Education Association said pro-worker lawmakers would introduce legislation this week to make organizing public workers easier. The legislation was unveiled June 28.

“It’s perfectly clear working people can’t get a fair hearing before the corporate-controlled Supreme Court,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders told the press conference. “We are recommitted to mobilizing and organizing. This was about corporate CEOs and wealthy special interests rigging the economy.”