Justice Kennedy's last decision last week, penned by Justice Alito, dealt a serious blow to public sector unions. In a 5-4 decision along party lines, Janus held that workers must affirmatively opt into union membership, rather than opting out. This will deprive unions - the backbone of the middle class - of the agency fees that they rely upon as a critical sources of financing in the face of shrinking membership.
At stake was the right of states to decide how to regulate unions - as Justice Kagan explained in her fiery dissent, before the decision, 22 states, supporting agency fees, believed that "stable unions promote healthy labor relations and thereby improve the provision of services to the public.... [while another, approximately 28 states, mostly "right to work"] have decided that strong unions impose excessive costs and impair those services." Five conservative white men decided to replace this laboratory of democratic with their opinion. Sheesh.
Especially at times like this, however, we must keep our eyes on the prize. This decision won’t withstand the thousands of teachers who have been striking across the country - and in some cases, winning - their fights in for better pay and working conditions in West Virginia, followed by Oklahoma, Arizona and elsewhere. If the Janus case is the past, they are the future. All-of-us must get take the long view and get educated so that we can double down on our support of workers in our community.
1 Listen to the Daily Podcast about the Janus decision (23 minutes, but it's worth it) which puts all of these events in events and outlines reasons for hope, not despair.
2 Mayors and unions are pledging to work together to defend the rights of working families and municipal workers. Urge (or thank) your mayor to sign on by visiting http://www.mayorsstandwithworkingfamilies.org/.