In 5-4 decision, Supreme Court undercuts workers’ freedom to organize

Celine McNicholas

Celine McNicholas Director of Labor Law and Policy, EPI

Today, the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31 that profoundly affects the future of workers’ rights, democratic decision making in the workplace, and the preservation of good, middle-class jobs in public employment. Overturning 40 years of precedent, the Court elevated the objections of a minority over the democratically determined choices of the majority of workers and prohibited state and local government workers from negotiating collective bargaining agreements with fair share fee arrangements. In other words, this decision bars unions from requiring workers who benefit from union representation to pay their fair share of that representation. As a result, workers who wish to join in union will be forced to operate with fewer and fewer resources. This will lead to reduced power—at the bargaining table and in the political process. It will have profound implications for not just the 6.8 million state and local government workers covered by a union contract, but all 17.3 million state and local government workers and indeed for every working person throughout the country.

Today’s decision is the result of litigation financed by a small group of foundations with ties to the largest and most powerful corporate lobbies. Janus is the third case on this issue the Court has considered in five years. Today, these billionaire-backed organizations finally got their decision, succeeding in advancing an agenda that weakens the bargaining power of workers. The result will be a reduction in state and local government workers’ wages and job quality as well as in the critical public services they provide.

It is likely that today’s decision will lead to greater instability in state and local workforces. The recent teachers’ strikes in states like West Virginia and Oklahoma provide important examples of the effect of denying workers the right to effective collective bargaining. As more workers are forced to resort to tactics outside of traditional collective bargaining to preserve their wages and benefits, they will do so under the court’s newly conceived First Amendment doctrine, which will undoubtedly evolve in the coming months and years as additional cases are filed challenging its outer limits. This may prove problematic for those determined to strip workers of their rights—they may ultimately usher in a new era where workers in this country rediscover their voice.

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Reposted from EPI

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work