On Labor Day, Americans honored the contributions and sacrifices of working people. But increasingly, workers are seeing their rights chipped away and are finding it harder to make ends meet. This was especially evident with the decision of the Supreme Court in June that curtails the ability of public employees to join together and stand up for themselves on the job.
The ruling in Janus v. AFSCME was not unexpected, but is still disappointing. The case dealt with an Illinois state government employee, Mark Janus, who didn’t want to pay “fair share” fees to the union that represented him and negotiated the contract that established his salary, benefits and working conditions. The Court held that “fair share” fees cannot be mandated for public employees, even when they are part of a negotiated collective bargaining agreement. This is in spite of the fact that the union is still legally obligated to represent workers who have elected not to pay “fair share” fees.
Fortunately, the Teamsters Union was not caught flat footed. Anticipating a potentially bad ruling, locals representing public employees have worked to convert “fair share” fee payers into full union members. Beefing up internal organizing and persuading all affected employees of the benefits of being a union member is the key to combatting this latest threat to public employees and their unions.
To be frank, this should not be necessary. The case was not really about the First Amendment, as the Supreme Court majority suggested. It was about taking away the ability of unions to ensure that all workers who benefit from collective bargaining share in the costs.
While this ruling could create some temporary roadblocks, all workers, whether employed in the public or private sectors, should remain united. We cannot allow the progress public employees have made by belonging and participating in unions to be undermined by people who fail to recognize the value of public service.
The middle class was built by everyday working people, standing together in their unions. The Teamsters honor that history by continuing the fight to ensure that all working people have a fair share of the American dream. The Teamsters will continue to organize, mobilize and do whatever is necessary to achieve and maintain prosperity through collective action.
At the same time, it is imperative for all elected officials to understand how anti-worker policies, including those that are enacted under the guise of judicial decisions, are affecting the lives of their constituents. Corporations and the wealthy prosper, while workers are struggling. The people must not be forgotten. Nor should they forget.