What is Janus vs. AFSCME?
Janus vs. AFSCME heard in late February of this year, centers on the question of whether all workers covered by a particular union contract can be compelled to pay a “fair share fee” to support the administrative costs of bargaining and upholding that contract. Janus is also the latest move in a decades-long attack by the far right on the labor movement—an attack that has been working. Strong unions, while good for workers are bad for ultra-rich executives, who have put millions of dollars into political lobbying and escalating lawsuits against labor organizations.
The Supreme Court is expected to hand down their ruling in the case as early as Tuesday, May 29. If the court rules in favor of Mark Janus in this case, the decision will undermine the right of workers to collectively bargain fair contracts. How? By eliminating fair share fees, the case would decimate union budgets that pay for the bargaining and enforcement of contracts, while continuing to require us to provide these services for all workers. This could mean reductions in services, staff layoffs, office closures, and other obstacles to serving our workers. Once again, Donald Trump’s Supreme Court will be taking the side of business interests against the vast majority of American workers. It is up to us to protect ourselves, and each other, by working together and staying #UnionStrong
Who is behind Janus vs. AFSCME?
The list of conservative think tanks, organizations, and donors masterminding and bankrolling the Janus vs. AFSCME case is long. In fact, the plaintiff Mark Janus might not even have that much to do with the case itself. Janus is a frontman for organizations like the Federalist Society (dedicated to re-orienting the courts to favor conservative policy) and donors like Richard Uihlein (a key backer of Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, and Bruce Rauner). Billionaires like Uihlein and Rauner, and the organizations they fund, are trying desperately to paint themselves as freedom warriors, all while doing their utmost to rob workers of their right to collective bargaining in the workplace, in a case that represents “judicial activism at its worst.” Mark Janus may be an American worker, but make no mistake: A win for Janus, in this case, is a loss for American workers at large, and a win for Donald Trump and the Republican Party.
What will Janus vs. AFSCME mean for our Student-Workers Union, UAW Local 2865?
Although we have made great membership gains in the past year, and are close to being at majority membership for the first time since [year?], our union still receives over 40% of its revenue from fair share fees. This ruling will deliver a severe blow to our ability to bargain and uphold a strong contract. That doesn’t mean we are going to stop fighting: in fact, it means we need to fight harder than ever.
We are determined to continue with the work we have always done to ensure a better deal for student-workers at the University of California. But we need your help. Only by continuing our gains in membership and with the help of engaged members fighting for what we all deserve will we weather this storm together. The teachers in so-called “right-to-work” states who have been rising up across the country all spring have taught us a powerful lesson: no attack is strong enough to silence us if we all speak up together.
Why do I need a union anyway?
Like Mark Janus himself, we benefit in many ways from the work that our dues—and, up until now, fair share fees—enable our union to do. Before we had a union, graduate workers at UC did not have guaranteed healthcare, appointment security, or recourse to a grievance process for workplace sexual harassment. We didn’t have guaranteed access to gender-neutral restrooms, and undocumented workers didn’t have any right to teaching appointments at all. But this is bigger than UC: Studies have shown that across universities, unions mean better pay and higher levels of personal and professional support for graduate student employees. This is why our colleagues at many other universities are fighting to form them. In this way, graduate students are much like other workers: historically, in the United States, higher union membership correlates strongly with shared prosperity, and negatively with the concentration of wealth among the top ten percent of earners.
While our union has had many victories in the 20 years of its existence, we know that our working conditions could still be improved. Having a super-majority of actively engaged workers signed up for our union will be critical in winning even stronger rights for workers, such as better protections against sexual harassment, a housing stipend, robust sanctuary protections, and wages that can meet the always-rising cost of living in California.
What can I do to ensure the continued strength of my union?
The forces arrayed against working people in the United States are frightening. But history has shown us that the best defense against an attack on collective power is a collective response. With the mega-rich and ultra-conservatives attempting to undermine workers’ well-being, here are some ways you can fight back:
- Join Your Union (or re-affirm your membership!): It’s never too late to sign up for membership, and always a good idea to confirm you are a dues-paying member.
- Organize your co-workers: Talk to your friends and colleagues about what union membership means to you, and why their membership means better working conditions for all of us. If you want to get involved with organizing efforts, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Contact your legislators to tell them what you think of Janus vs. AFSCME and the assault on unions. [Click here for a script you can use or adopt] We need Californian elected officials to know which side their constituents are on.
- Post on social media about why your union is important to you [here are some social media resources from the California Labor Federation >]
- Do YOU have suggestions? We are open to creative ways our members want to move forward. Please contact us to get involved!
#UCforALL #ViolenceFreeUC #UnionStrong