Agency fees and the future of the union movement hit the Supreme Court

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

“Agency fees,” paid by non-union public workers whom unions represent in many states, hit the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 26. But what was really at stake was the future of the union movement. “You’re basically arguing, ‘Do away with unions,’” Justice Sonia Sotomayor told the attorney for the union foes who brought the case, William Messenger of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund. 

As the justices heard the case inside the court’s white-marbled hall, unionists made themselves heard outside. More than 1,000 demonstrated for worker rights on the plaza outside the building. And they drew support from pro-choice, civil rights and community allies. A much smaller group supported the right to work crowd. The case is the most important labor case to hit the High Court in decades, said attorneys for both the union and the state of Illinois, whose law lets AFSCME collect the agency fees from the non-members. 

“The state’s interest here is dealing with a single spokesman, and that they” – the union – “have a duty of representing everyone,” Illinois Solicitor General David Franklin told Justice Elena Kagan. That includes the non-members, he added. “A two-tiered workplace” where some people pay dues and the rest are free riders “would be corrosive to collaboration and cooperation,” he added.

And, to keep their members, unions might be forced to become more militant, including demanding the right to strike. Making all state and local government workers free riders, “drains the union of resources that make it an equal partner” in bargaining with the state and local employers, Justice Ginsburg re-emphasized. The two silent GOP justices were Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, the court’s newest member, named by Trump, whose lower-court rulings and writings were consistently anti-worker. That lineup has led court specialists to predict unions will lose the case 5-4 on party lines. The court will decide Janus by late June.

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Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Press Associates

Union Matters

A Fierce Defender of Truth and Classic Opulence

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös sees himself as the custodian of a hallowed brand — and woe be to anyone who dares dispute Rolls supremacy in the universe of ultra luxury. This past March, Müller-Ötvös lit into an Aston Martin exec who had the temerity of suggesting that the traditional Rolls design amounted to an outmoded “ancient Greece.” An “enraged” Müller-Ötvös, Auto News reported, fumed that Aston Martin had “zero clue” about the ultra rich and then accused other carmakers of stealing Rolls-Royce intellectual property. Last summer, Müller-Ötvös rushed to defend the $650,000 price-tag on one Rolls model after a reporter told him that his son wondered why anyone who could afford to “fly to the moon” would choose to buy a Rolls instead. Rolls patrons, the 58-year-old CEO harrumphed back, hold at least $30 million in personal wealth: “They don’t have to choose. They can fly to the moon as well.”

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The Real Root of Poverty

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