by Félix Pérez
A case before the U.S. Supreme Court is an “assault on the freedoms of working people to earn a better life for themselves and their families,” argue educators in a brief filed with the court Jan. 19.
The case, Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, is the latest attempt to have the court rule, contrary to long-established precedent, that non-union members who share in the wages, benefits and protections that have been negotiated in a collectively bargained contract are not required to pay their fair share for the cost of those negotiations. Janus follows decades of attacks by corporate special interests on the right of employees to join together for economic opportunity. Janus is funded by the National Right to Work Committee and the Liberty Justice Center. Both groups are part of a network funded by billionaires such as the Koch brothers and and other corporate CEOs who do not believe that working people deserve the same freedoms they have: to negotiate a fair return on their work.
Lily Eskelsen García, a sixth grade teacher and president of the National Education Association, which along with the American Association of University Professors filed the amicus brief, said:
Strong unions help to create strong schools for students and even stronger communities that benefit all of us. For generations, unions have been the best path to the middle class for working people, especially people of color and women. But in this rigged economy, unions are under attack, and those attacks are coming not just from the White House and Capitol Hill. They’re happening at the ballot box and at the Supreme Court with cases like Janus v. AFSCME.
According to The Guardian magazine, the lawsuit represents an orchestrated, nationwide campaign by conservative special interests to “defund and defang” unions representing public service employees. “A network of conservative thinktanks with outposts in all 50 states has embarked on a “breakthrough” campaign designed to strike a “mortal blow,” states the article.
“This case is part of a broader effort to weaken the freedom and power of working people, undermine public services, and to erode the common good. The Supreme Court should consider the benefits of robust collective bargaining and unionization for public employers, employees and the general public, including improved government services, better educational outcomes and higher economic mobility,” said Risa Lieberwitz, AAUP’s general counsel. “The court also should not ignore the fact that many of the groups who filed briefs in support of Janus only want to manipulate and weaponize the court’s decision to attack unions and deprive state and local governments of broad societal benefits that accompany collective bargaining.”
Eskelsen García added, “The politically-motivated backers behind Janus know this case is nothing more than a smokescreen for what they’re really trying to do. Point blank, this case is an assault on the freedoms of working people to earn a better life for themselves and their families. The case’s backers are attempting to write the rules further in favor of their own special corporate interests and other billionaires. The justices on the Supreme Court cannot allow themselves to be fooled.”
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case Monday, February 26. A decision is expected by June.