by Mark Gruenberg, PAI Staff Writer
WASHINGTON (PAI)—In a predictable ruling, the 5-man Republican-named majority of the U.S. Supreme Court lowered the boom on unions representing state and local government workers, declaring every single such worker in the country a “free rider,” able to take union services without paying for them. That will deprive unions of hundreds of thousands of members and millions of dollars in agency fees, weakening their ability to represent and advocate for all workers. The decision effectively makes every state and local government workplace – schools, fire departments, police stations, sanitation departments, state child welfare agencies, public hospitals and more – rght-to-work sites when present union contracts expire.
The court’s decision culminates a long campaign by the National Right to Work Committee, its legal defense fund and its corporate backers, led by the stridently anti-worker Koch brothers to, as one of their advocates put it, “defund the left” by cutting off its cash. Organized labor is a key source of people and contributions for progressive causes. Unions blasted the ruling and vowed to shoulder on, re-signing current state and local government worker members and signing up new ones, regardless of the Janus case. Unions are fighting back through increased organizing successes, said AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, noting that “more than 14,000 workers recently formed or joined unions in just a single week” and union membership grew by 262,000 last year nationwide. “
The majority’s ruling “will have large-scale consequences,” warned justice Elena Kagan. “Public employee unions will lose a secure source of financial support. State and local governments that thought fair-share provisions furthered their interests” in workplace peace and efficiency “will have to find new ways of managing their workforces. And across the country, the relationships of public employees and employers will alter in both predictable and wholly unexpected ways.”
A recent analysis by the University of Illinois Labor Education Service and the Illinois Economic Policy Institute calculated that once the ruling takes full effect, public worker unions would lose 726,000 members over time. The top losses would be in California (-189,000 members), New York (-136,000), New Jersey (-50,000), Illinois (-49,000) and Ohio (-40,000). Teachers unions would lose 88,000 members. AFSCME Council 31, which represents Illinois state and local government workers and which lost the case, has approximately 75,000 members, 80 percent of them state and local government workers. And the average state and local government worker would lose $1,810 yearly in pay (3.6 percent), with teachers losing even more (5.4 percent), the study said. Nationwide, state and local government workers would lose $16.8 billion over time in pay.