U.S. Supreme Court delivers Janus blow, but it can’t stop workers or their unions
By SHERRY HALBROOK
The U.S. Supreme Court put it off until the last possible day, but finally June 27 the court issued its decision in Janus v. AFSCME and it was the bad news PEF and all public-sector unions in the country were braced to receive. In essence, the court ruled the unions could no longer collect agency fees from employees in bargaining units the unions represent, but who choose not to join the union.
“Today’s decision from the U.S. Supreme Court comes as no surprise,” PEF President Wayne Spence said. “The court overturned its own precedent-setting decision that for more than 40 years had recognized the ability of unions to collect “fair share” or “agency” fees to compensate the union for bargaining contracts and providing other services.
The Janus decision, which split the court 5-4, was the culmination of years of carefully orchestrated, well financed campaigns and court challenges to unions throughout the country. That campaign is fueled by wealthy and powerful interests who have hundreds of millions of dollars to attack and defund unions, and it will continue.
But while those billionaires may have won this battle in the court, they have not won and will not win the war against American workers, Spence said.
“The corporate and wealthy interests that bankrolled the Janus case know that without unions, workers don’t have a voice to fight for a better life and greater opportunity. And with today’s ruling, the anti-union and anti-worker forces think they’ve won. They think we are defeated. They couldn’t be more wrong!” Spence said.
PEF, like other unions in New York State and around the country saw this coming and prepared for this decision with vigorous member-engagement campaigns involving thousands of one-on-one conversations with members about the value of being a union member. Here in New York state, the unions worked with the state Legislature and the governor to enact measures that will soften the impact of this court decision. (See page 8 for more information.)
In addition, the PEF Executive Board has taken budgetary and policy steps to prepare for the loss of agency fee income and to adjust the union’s activities and policies accordingly. (See page 12 for more information.)
“What the anti-union groups don’t understand is the power of our union comes from our members and our commitment to fight for our families and our communities” Spence said. “I’ve seen firsthand, visiting with many of you, the power of our recommit campaign. Our members are more engaged and mobilized than ever before.”
Spence warned members to expect the anti-union groups to step up their assault. “Their goal is to mislead union members into giving up our power and voice by opting out of union membership. Our members are far too smart to take that bait. So, if you haven’t already done it, please take a moment now to sign a PEF membership card online.”
Staff of the PEF Field Organizing Department are available to answer any questions or concerns you may have about this decision. Call 518-785-1900 ext. 264 or go online to www.pef.org.
In addition, the PEF legal department is analyzing the decision and the union will continue to send members updates as the union learns more details about exactly what this decision will mean.
“PEF members, never forget that this is your union and our strength comes from each and every one of you. We can’t let this decision make us forget why we formed unions in the first place – to ensure good jobs with a decent wage, safe workplaces, good and affordable health care, the ability to retire with dignity and the strength to make our communities and our state a better place for all,” Spence said.
“With big corporations and billionaires rigging the rules, now more than ever, we must pledge to stick together. No court case, no billionaire and no propaganda campaign can stop us.”
Or, sign-up online for the PEF Membership Application and Dues Payroll Deduction Authorization Form here.