Jewish Labor Committee Denounces Janus Court Case against Public Sector Workers

By Jewish Labor Committee
Independent, Nonprofit Organization

As attorneys argue a U.S Supreme Court case today that could decimate public sector unionism in the United States, the Jewish Labor Committee denounces the forces at work behind this lawsuit and supports the efforts of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) to defend against it. 

Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 was backed by conservative industrialists and think tanks, including Richard Uihlein, an Illinois shipping supply magnate, and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

Under current law, public sector unions generally have the right to collect a fee, a “fair share,” from all workers they represent in collective bargaining. No worker is required to join the union.  Moreover, both union members and fair share participants can opt out of paying political action or other costs not associated with contract issues.

Jonathan D. Rosenblum, executive director of the Jewish Labor Committee stated: “In most of the world, the ‘right to work’ means the right to obtain a sustaining job. Only in America has that term been hijacked to mean the right to defect from community by refusing to support with dues payments (or service fees) the elected workplace association-- that is, the union.”

Rosenblum added:  “The Janus case is part of a long-standing campaign by conservatives to undermine quality state-based public sector jobs that historically have been especially important to women and minorities. “

Rosenblum pointed out that “right to work” in the U.S. is historically grounded in the white supremacy movement. Texas lobbyist and white supremacist Vance Muse began the movement in the 1940s, alongside his work fighting women’s suffrage and seeking to avoid U.S. child labor protections.

As Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once declared, “Right-to-Work” laws are a favorite instrument of the leaders of the White Citizen Councils and the Klan.”

The JLC, through Philadelphia JLC Board Member Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, is a co-signer of the “Faith in Public Life, Religious Organizations & Faith Leaders” amicus brief supporting AFSCME’s position in the case.  That brief states in part that, “Social justice for laborers has deep roots in scripture and tradition and the importance of unions has been acknowledged by organized religion since the nineteenth century.  In addition to expressing our denominational support for unions, amici are also interested in protecting the rights of our community members, our parishioners, to form and be part of fully functional unions.”

The brief also points out that “Jewish leaders, along with our Catholic and Protestant counterparts, have always supported the labor movement and the rights of employees to form unions for the purpose of engaging in collective bargaining and attaining fairness in the workplace.”   In 2005, the Union for Reform Judaism resolved “to support the rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively,” and to oppose the adoption of “right-to-work” laws that hinder unions’ ability to function.  

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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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