The Janus v. AFSCME decision has come down this morning. As expected, the right wing of the Supreme Court, bolstered by Donald Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch, has delivered a serious blow to public-sector unions like the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) by outlawing the agency fee on spurious First Amendment grounds.
What does Janus mean? As Celine McNicholas explains in this video, under current law unions must represent—in other words, spend money to defend—all workers in a bargaining unit, regardless of whether or not they choose to join the union. In a 1977 decision called Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the US Supreme Court ruled that unions may charge non-members a fee to help cover these costs and to prevent non-members from “free riding,” or reaping the benefits of union membership while allowing their colleagues to pick up the tab. There is no question that non-members benefit from the union’s efforts on their behalf—indeed, unions raise wages not only for those covered by their agreements, but in wholly non-unionized sectors as well.
The Janus case represents an effort by a small number of wealthy, corporate-backed right-wing foundations to weaken public sector unions, which not only redistribute wealth by pressuring governments to pay their employees a living wage, but are a main source of financial and organizational support for Democratic Party politicians. As a follow-up, we should expect a well-financed campaign to convince PSC members, including adjuncts, to leave the union. Continue reading “Live by the State, Die by the State”