Labor Fights Back After U.S. Supreme Court Tries to Strike it Down

By Bethany Swanson
USW Intern

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the Janus v. AFSCME case that non-union members cannot be required to pay fair share fees to cover the cost of services that public sector unions provide to them. This outcome is exactly what right-wing billionaires hoped for when they spent untold millions backing plaintiff Mark Janus who did not want to pay fair share fees.

Billionaire right-wingers want to destroy public sector unions because they advance pro-worker, pro-community and pro-environment policies.

The Janus ruling comes just weeks after the Supreme Court issued a decision in the Epic Systems v. Lewis case, restricting workers’ ability to come together to form class-action lawsuits and forcing workers to file alone to redress abuse or discrimination.

Together, these decisions show, once again, that the right-wing majority on the Court privileges corporations over people and billionaires over workers.

Over the past 30 years, the percentage of workers protected by unions has declined. And wages have stagnated as workers have lost the power of a collective voice to demand better pay and benefits. The Janus case could result in further retrenchment of union representation. Some estimate it will cut membership in public sector unions by 8.2 percent if public sector workers drop out of their unions and decline to pay fair share fees.

The Freedom Foundation, a conservative group accused of campaign finance violations in Washington State, is spending millions to make sure workers ditch their unions. The foundation began acquiring lists of workers and identifying public employees to feature in anti-union videos in February and will deploy 80 paid propagandists to California, Oregon and Washington to try to persuade at least 127,000 union members to quit and refuse to pay fair share fees.

If successful, the Freedom Foundation will use more grants from billionaires to try to persuade public sector workers across the country to abandon their unions, that is, the organizations that bargain better wages and working conditions for workers.

The AFL-CIO isn’t sitting on its heels and taking this abuse.  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the day the Janus decision was announced, “We have never depended on any politician or judge to decide our fate and we aren’t about to start now.”

The AFL-CIO and individual public sector unions including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), began beating back against the Janus decision even before it was announced. Together they’ve organized campaigns where union members have met with hundreds of thousands of other members to persuade them to stand with their unions. After the Supreme Court’s decision the ultimate question for workers is who do they trust: a bunch of billionaires or their fellow union members?

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Posted In: Union Matters

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