Janus and the Future

The Supreme Court dealt a major blow to public sector unions today in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees by forcing them to service members who do not have to pay their fair share of fees for the services they receive.

Hi,

My thoughts below on today’s Supreme Court ruling:
The Supreme Court dealt a major blow to public sector unions today in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees by forcing them to service members who do not have to pay their fair share of fees for the services they receive.

The decision has been expected for two years. In 2016, when a similar decision was expected, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died and it seemed President Obama had an opportunity to shift the court to the left. However, his Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, who had a good labor record, was not even given a hearing by the Republican-controlled Senate.

While some will say eliminating the cost of public sector workers is necessary to not cut other programs nor make taxes excessively high, the tax structure should not be designed to overly burden the working and middle class while the upper class can afford new taxes.

Janus is the latest in a long series of defeats for the labor movement.

Public employee unions have been on the defensive for a long time.  Private sector unions have already been largely decimated with the except of Building Trades unions in the construction industry.

Labor unions were under attack under Obama on the state level most notably in Wisconsin under Scott Walker but also in several states which became Right to Work became law under which it is not necessary to join a union and thereby becoming a free rider.

On the federal level, conservative opposition blocked a number of labor reforms in Congress. Obama was also the only Democratic President to not have raised the minimum wage. Even George W. Bush raised the minimum wage once it was passed by a Democratic Congress.

In addition, some of the few reforms Obama was able to enact via regulation are being undone by Trump or struck down by reactionary judges interpreting the law for their own ends.

And while unemployment is down, a third of the country is working two jobs to survive due to the uneven economic recovery.

This is what happens when you have a reactionary billionaire class subverting democracy and a crook desecrating the White House.

Labor unions at their height raised the American standard of living to the highest in the world, served as a pillar of the Democratic Party, and funded several progressive causes, including the Civil Rights movement. With their decline, wages are stagnant and we have a generation that will deal with the negative effects of fewer economic opportunities for decades to come.

What is to be done?

It is important to vote of course and call your elected officials to urge them to support you. Donating money allows one more access to politicians and thereby giving advocates the best place to make their case. Advocacy is most effective when sympathetic politicians are already in office and public opinion is on your side.

But quite often the public is divided on an issue and politicians think that being moderate will sway sufficient voters when they are up for re-election.

What has been consistently effective is mass protest, especially when it is disruptive. An example in recent memory would be the airport protest against Trump’s travel ban where massive crowds and cab drivers refused to drive passengers to the airport led to a judge ruling against the ban.

Or think of Rosa Parks defying Jim Crow laws. Her effort sparked the Montgomery bus boycott and its victory which in turn sparked the battles and victories won by the Civil Rights movement which often used civil disobedience to ignite passion in the hearts of people which ultimately helped push the legislation through.

Civil disobedience is where you turn when the government no longer represents you and when you cannot match the money or the insider influence of the other side. And that is where unions and their allies must turn now in the fight for economic justice.

It was through the sit-down strikes led by Auto Workers in Flint which sparked strikes through the country and gave the union the position to make a deal that ultimately raised the living standard for millions in the United States.

It is to civil disobedience that union and their allies need to turn. Mass, disruptive has proven exceedingly effective in red states like West Virginia and Oklahoma where one would not expect unions to win.

In the majority opinion, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr. wrote that “agency fees cannot be upheld on the ground that they promote an interest in ‘labor peace.’” “Labor peace” is the idea that unions keep workers operating in a docile fashion and avoid unnecessary strikes that disrupt business. We have had “labor peace” for far too long at the expense of everyone who needs to earn a paycheck for far too long.

 

Thank you for reading.

In solidarity,

 

Dan

 

Daniel L. Ulloa

President

American Workforce Association

(908) 421-1422

Americanworkforce1@gmail.com

Americanworkforce.net

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The NLC Labor Summit and the Crumbling of New Jersey

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Congressman Donald Norcross (D-NJ) addressed the NLC Labor Summit Saturday.

By Eddie Rivera

The New Leaders Council’s Labor Summit in Edison on Saturday was a reminder of how New Jersey needs to be a beacon of hope for the labor movement and how far it has fallen. The last eight years with Chris Christie as Governor have derailed the Garden State. New Jersey has fallen behind its neighboring states in every economic measure since the Great Recession. Its credit rating has been downgraded several times. The NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development has seen its budget nearly slashed to death and belittled in integrity. The bill to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour was vetoed last summer and the legislature did not override his veto. State residents are unable to make ends meet. It’s nearly impossible to survive with a low minimum wage and high tuition costs. Imagine raising kids while working three jobs and earning an education. This is a great injustice in a state as prosperous as ours.

In addition, Trump’s presidency has only made it worse. His appointment to the Supreme Court is likely to vote in favor of weakening labor unions while a similar bill is pending in Congress. The regulatory gains made by the Obama Administration in the face opposition are being turned back. His administration is stacked with plutocrats seeking to benefits their cronies at the expense of the American people. As Congressman Donald Norcross (D-NJ) pointed out, there are a handful of individuals in the United States Congress who have been in a labor union.

This weekend’s summit was a reminder to on its laurels in the long war against Hypercapitalism when small gains are achieved. Now is the time to fight for the preservation of the Labor Movement in New Jersey and the country as a whole. We as a state cannot continue to move backward. Now is the opportunity to turn the page and move forward back to the progressive values we in the Garden State hold dear. With so much diversity, New Jersey needs to demonstrate progressivism in all areas of public policy. Each of the panelists has expressed their views on labor with much thought and deliberation.

Without labor, New Jersey cannot function. We need reform to continue robust activity within the transportation, manufacturing, health, education, and customer service sectors. Everyone should be entitled to pension and benefits in their respective fields. I urge everyone to continue the fight for a better New Jersey. Eight years of falling behind the rest of the nation has gone long enough. Let us all come together and make all our dreams come true once again.

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SCOTUS Nominee has Pro-Labor Record

Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland has had a consistently pro-labor record as a judge

President Barack Obama chose Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, this week to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

At the ceremony announcing Garland’s nomination Obama declared that “I have selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency modesty, integrity, evenhandedness and excellence.”

While on the bench Garland has been a proponent of judicial restraint in which the judiciary should defer to the Executive Branch. Thus, he supported EPA regulations that require corporations to reduce mercury emissions, regardless of cost. By the same token, he supported 22 pro-labor decisions made by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

However, on four cases Garland shied away from his philosophy of judicial restraint in favor of pro-labor policies.

The fact that Garland is far friendlier to labor unions than Scalia ever was has serious consequences for unions. Any Supreme Court pick by Obama would likely have ruled on labor’s side when it came to the Freidrichs v. California Teachers Association case which the Supreme Court recently began hearing arguments. Had Scalia lived, the court would have reached a 5-4 ruling against public sector unions and cut off member contributions, a major source of union funds.

Now, the Supreme Court will be split on a decision 4-4 and thus the lower court’s decision in favor of unions will likely remain in place.

Who is Merrick Garland?

Garland is the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals. Educated at Harvard for both his bachelor’s and law degree, he served in the Justice Department during both the Carter and Clinton Administrations. After serving in the Justice Department, he received his appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

So he’s pretty qualified.

In choosing Garland, Obama sought a figure who would have an impeccable resume and ideally bipartisan support since he previously praised publicly by Senators such as Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who has fought against labor rights for years.

What Happens Next?

It’s going to be a rough fight. In an era of gridlock inducing issues, a Supreme Court nomination is one of the biggest. Since Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987, the opposing party has called the decisions of any nominee “too liberal or “too conservative” and many have been defeated. The process has become so dramatic they’re making a movie about it.

Prominent Democrats have already started rallying behind Garland as the first steps to confirming Garland. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, United Auto Workers (UAW) President Dennis Williams, and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry have all issued statements supporting Garland. Henry said regarding Garland that “His records shows that he believes in the duty of government to protect regular Americans, and our democracy, from being corrupted by the excesses of the super wealthy and their corporate agenda.”

Senate Republicans have already forcefully declared that any nomination made Obama would be blocked. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).have they will not even allow the Senate to consider Garland.

Unless Obama tries to build a wall on the Mexican border himself, it’s going to be nearly impossible to get Garland confirmed.

 

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