On February 26th, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, a case that could profoundly affect the ability of public-sector workers to improve their wages and working conditions. The case threatens the right of the majority of workers to bargain with their public employer, through their democratically elected union.
While the outcome of the case will affect about 17 million public-sector workers across the country, black women in particular could be hurt by Janus, as they are disproportionately represented in public sector jobs. They make up 17.7 percent of public-sector workers, or about 1.5 million workers.
Black women have the highest share of workers in the public sector: Share of public sector employment, by gender and race, 2016
|Group||Share of public sector employment|
Source: EPI analysis of Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group, 2016
Black women have traditionally faced a double pay gap—a gender pay gap and a racial wage gap. EPI research has shown that black women are paid only 65 cents of the dollar that their white male counterparts are paid. However, unions help reduce these pay gaps. Working black women in unions are paid 94.9 percent of what their black male counterparts make, while nonunion black women are paid just 91 percent of their counterparts.
If the Supreme Court decides in favor of weakening unions, it will impact the future of democratic decision making in the workplace and the preservation of good, middle-class jobs in public employment that have traditionally benefited African American women who have chosen to serve the public for their careers.