Supreme Court Delivers A Huge Blow to Millions of Workers

Julian Medrano |

 US Supreme Court

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court compromised one of our fundamental rights as working people when it ruled that government workers who choose not to join a union cannot be charged for the cost of collective bargaining.

The decision in Janus vs. AFSCME overturns 40 years of precedence and invalidates the laws of 23 states. It also nullifies the wording in thousands of union contracts across the country. The effects of this decision will be felt far beyond the 6.8 million workers who are directly affected.

In states without “fair share” laws, the wages of public sector employees are universally lower than in states with them. A study done by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute estimates that the loss of bargaining power will likely lead to an average pay cut of $1,800 per year for the affected workers. This could shrink the national economy by up to $33 billion [1] and demonstrates just how important unions are and just how successful corporate interests have been in attacking them.

In the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress. Out of its bold struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployment insurance, old age pensions, government relief for the destitute, and above all new wage levels that meant not mere survival, but a tolerable life. The captains of industry did not lead this transformation; they resisted it until they were overcome. When in the thirties the wave of union organization crested over our nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society.”

Unions help boost the wages of not only the workers in a specific workplace but all the workers in that industry and region by establishing wage and benefit standards that are adopted by even non-union workplaces.  

For more than forty years this balancing force has been under constant attack from corporate interests. These attacks have taken a toll on unions and the rising income inequality in this country can be directly traced back to their efforts.

It’s time that we made it easier for working people to join unions and counteract the current descent into inequality. Reach out to your Senator and Congressman TODAY and demand that they enact the Workplace Action for the Growing Economy Act (WAGE Act)! This law would improve workers rights and protections by:

  • Tripling backpay that employers must pay to workers who are fired or retaliated against because they engaged in collective action, regardless of immigration status.
  • Providing workers whose rights have been violated with private right of action to bring suit to recover monetary damages and attorney’s fees in federal district court, just as they can under civil rights laws.
  • Providing for federal court injunctions to immediately return fired workers to their jobs.
  • Ensuring that employers that actually control the wages and working conditions will be jointly responsible for violations affecting workers supplied by another employer.

This Act would help put an end to the perverse financial incentives companies have to violate fair union elections.

In this diverse world that we live today we need to take the words of Pope Francis to heart when he said labor unions that protect and defend the dignity of work and the rights of workers continue to have an essential role in society, especially in promoting inclusion. [2]

Working people need to stand together now more than ever. Join us and support the work of IWJ today.