Today’s 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision smashes precedent and overturns the Court’s unanimous 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which upheld the maintaining of a union shop in a public workplace.
Make no mistake: Janus v. AFSCME was always a politically-motivated case designed to rig the rules of the economy even more in favor of the privileged and powerful by weakening unions. What our country’s highest court did today was to, in effect, make so-called “right-to-work” the law of the land for public employees.
Let’s remember what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said nearly 60 years ago about so-called “right-to-work” laws:
“We must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights… We demand this fraud be stopped.”
Just yesterday, the value of collective bargaining was demonstrated by our union’s successful negotiations with the City of New York. The process provided a fair deal for both workers and taxpayers.
Today’s decision is appallingly out of sync with both public sentiment and the difficult times now faced by working families. As an antidote to the economic inequality that threatens the security and stability of our country, the labor movement is viewed more favorably by Americans (especially the young), than it has been in decades.
During the three years that this anti-union case worked its way to the Supreme Court, the hardworking public sector employees represented by District Council 37 have demonstrated their belief in the power of collective action.
In anticipation of an adverse ruling on Janus, DC 37 intensified its efforts to protect public sector workers’ rights and to strengthen the union. And the membership has responded. By the thousands, city employees have rejected this assault on worker freedoms and reaffirmed their commitment to their union. Today, DC 37 has fewer agency fee payers -and more membership cards on file – than ever before. The city’s workforce is standing by its union.
The corporate elite and the politicians they own have always done what they could to silence the voice and collective power of workers. The courts were the equalizers. Tragically, the Supreme Court disavowed that role today.