Lawyers for Mark Janus, a child-support specialist with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, argued that collective bargaining with the government is a form of lobbying and that fees paid to a public-sector union are therefore violations of free speech under the First Amendment.
The decision is likely to set a devastating precedent.
Gorsuch dismissed Ginsburg’s objections as “apocalyptic.” I don’t mind an apocalypse as long as the angels win. Since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, I have been talking to people in and around the labor movement, going on the premise that American workers may soon be engaged in a virtual Armageddon with capital.
While the working class has hardly lost all ground, it has seen enough of its victories reversed to warrant such a prediction.
“The right wing recognizes the labor movement as a barrier to the achievement of its reactionary goals,” says Gene Bruskin, who led the campaign to organize Smithfield Foods in 2008.
The Smithfield campaign resulted in the first union contract for 5,000 workers at a massive pork operation in North Carolina, then the state with the lowest union membership in the nation.There are five tiers, with the fifth consisting of such countries as Mexico and Iran.The United States is now in the fourth tier, with Peru and Argentina.As for Trump himself, he is at best a catalyst for the fight, at worst a distraction from what may already have been the opening salvos of labor’s last stand. At issue in both cases was whether public employees who choose not to join unions can still be charged for representation.In a 5–4 decision, the Court ruled that they cannot.I learn about the ITUC ranking from Larry Cohen, a former president of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) who helped coordinate Labor for Bernie and now chairs the board of Our Revolution, a group that hopes to build on the momentum of the Sanders campaign.He’s been part of the union for thirty-nine years and worked to strengthen its partnership with unions in Germany and elsewhere.With so-called right-to-work laws on the books in twenty-eight states (including every state south of the Mason–Dixon Line except Maryland), unions are understandably apprehensive over what the ruling will mean for their membership and finances should “agency fees” in public-sector unions become a thing of the past.Rand Wilson, now chief of staff for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 888 and formerly a strategist for the Teamsters during the successful United Parcel Service strike of 1997, sees danger and promise both.Writing for the majority, Trump-appointed justice Neil Gorsuch maintained that the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act was more pertinent to the cases at hand than the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, which asserts that workers have a right to “concerted activities” for the purpose of “mutual aid or protection.” In actuality, as this ruling and others before and since have made abundantly clear, workers don’t have any rights at all except those they wrest through disciplined organization and militant struggle.Although the Supreme Court’s decision does not affect workers in unions, it does amount to an ominous, ideologically motivated attack on the principle of collective action from which unions derive.