Friday, February 23, 2018

Defend the Unions

With the conservative-dominated Supreme Court set to hear a case Janus v. AFSCME Council 31—could determine whether public sector unions are allowed to collect what are called "fair share" fees from workers to cover the costs of collective bargaining. That poses the "biggest threat to organized labor in years".  Although fair share fees have been upheld as legal for decades, the high court's conservative majority is likely to strike them down as unconstitutional. members of National Nurses United (NNU)—the largest organization of registered nurses in the U.S.—rallied across the country to highlight the crucial role of unions in protecting workers from corporate exploitation. If the court rules against AFSCME, the entire U.S. public sector would essentially be a 'right-to-work' zone―meaning employees could no longer be required to pay anything to the unions that bargain on their behalf.

"It's the union that brings many safety laws in legislation and public regulatory protections. It's the union dues that fund those efforts," said Maureen Dugan, RN, who works at the University of California San Francisco. "It's the nurses in my hospital, in my region, in my whole state that make up the strength of our union and our ability to protect our patients, our license, and our profession."

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI)  the Janus case did not arise out of widespread worker opposition to "fair share" fees. "Rather, the fair share cases are being financed by a small group of foundations with ties to the largest and most powerful corporate lobbies," highlighting the large role played by groups like the right-wing Liberty Justice Center, which is supported the Charles Koch Institute and similar pro-corporate organizations.

"This case is one of the most important cases to corporate interest groups. It is one of the cases that made Senate Republicans so determined to block President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court," EPI labor counsel Celine McNicholas, concluded, "The outcome of Janus will affect millions of working people across the country and will impact the public services we depend on these workers to provide."

Janus is the culmination of years of attacks by the wealthy elite and corporate interests on ordinary workers. The backers of the Janus case don’t want strong unions; nor do they want workers to have a voice on the job.  If the court sides with the moneyed interests behind these attacks, every single working family stands to lose out.  Unionized workers generally earn higher pay, have stronger job protections, enjoy better benefits and are more likely to have a traditional pension than non-unionized workers. The union advantage is clear. The economic benefits of unionization, however, extend well beyond those holding a union card. A 2017 Economic Policy Institute study found strong unions set a higher pay standard that non-union employers follow. In other words, the very presence of unionized workers in an industry, occupation or entire state like New York establishes norms that lift wages and benefits for all workers. That higher standard of living for all would be in jeopardy if the court rules against unions.

It’s easy to see why the corporate backers of the Janus case want to weaken unions and roll back pay and benefits for all workers. Without organized push back, the CEOs and billionaires can keep more profits for themselves. They benefit from a race to the bottom. They don’t care about inequality or injustice. They like it better when workers don’t have a voice.

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