Janus decision is not about union finances—it’s about working people’s finances
Today, the Supreme Court issued its final opinions from October Term 2017. This ends a particularly devastating term for working people—and for our democracy. One of the most troubling elements of the decisions impacting workers is the court’s repeated undermining of workers’ ability to act collectively in addressing workplace issues. This can be seen in the both Epic Systems Corp. and Janus. Corporate interests have long fought to erode the right of workers’ to join together. The Supreme Court certainly advanced this attack this term.
It is likely that the small group of foundations with ties to the largest and most powerful corporate lobbies that are behind the Janus case feel validated by today’s opinion that shamefully safeguards their interests by contorting the First Amendment. However, this victory will be short lived. Working people in this country know that the economy is not working for them. Today’s decision is likely to make that more true, but at the same time, it has already made workers’ right to a union and collective bargaining a topic covered by cable news and in newspapers throughout the country—a feat in and of itself. As was seen in the reaction to the teachers’ strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and beyond, when issues of economic justice and workers’ rights are put front and center, the interests of the wealthy few rarely prevail.
Much will be said of Janus and its impact on unions—particularly union finances. But today’s decision is really about working people’s finances—our wages and our benefits. Unions provide a means for working people to come together and ensure that we are paid fairly and treated with dignity on the job. Unions are fundamental to a fair economy. Union membership cuts not just across political party affiliation, but also across race, gender, and ethnicity, ensuring that often marginalized voices are represented. Unions also provide an effective, organized voice for working people in our political process—helping to win minimum wage increases and civil rights protections for all working people. Today, millions of men and women in this country are union members, and millions more view unions favorably. Over half of all Americans say that the decline in union representation has been bad for working people in the United States. The Supreme Court today focused on fair share fees, but the focus going forward must be on a fair economy for working people and unions are clearly a critical part of that fight.