In the face of the latest attack on the working class, union members vowed to continue their fight against inequality and corporate privilege no matter how the Supreme Court rules on Janus v. AFSCME District Council 31.
That was the message repeated countless times at rallies and demonstrations that took place all across the US during the February 24 Working People’s Day of Action.
At a rally in New Bedford, Massachusetts, one of 11 Day of Action demonstrations that took place in the state, Sheila Kerns, president of AFSCME Local 1067 succinctly explained what Mark Janus, the plaintiff in the case, is seeking.
“How do you spell entitlement,” asked Kerns as she spoke to the demonstrators at the rally. “J-A-N-U-S.”
In other words, Janus, who enjoys the benefits of union representation even though he is not a union member, feels entitled to receive these benefits without having to pay his fair share to protect and expand them.
Janus’ lawsuit has been financed by corporate billionaires such as the Koch brothers who hope that if the Court rules in their favor, more workers like Janus will quit paying their fair share for union representation, thus weakening unions, the most effective opposition to corporate greed.
The Janus case is a transparent attempt to weaken unions, particularly public sector unions by depriving them of funding.
While today’s Court is packed with corporate friendly judges such as the newly appointed Judge Neil Gorsuch, that hasn’t always been the case.
In 1977, the Supreme Court recognized the important role that unions play as a counter balance to wealth and privilege when it ruled that fair share fees like the ones that Janus doesn’t want to pay were in fact fair.
Janus’ billionaire backers are hoping that a more corporate friendly Court will reverse its previous decision.
Should they win, the freedom of the working class to take collective action to defend and improve our standard of living could be at stake.
Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO recognized this threat as he addressed 5000 people at the Chicago Working People’s Day of Action.
“Our freedom is under attack,” Carrigan said.
But, continued Carrigan repeating a theme heard at all of the Day of Action demonstrations, “Whether you are in a union or not, working people are here to fight back. We are here to unrig the system.”
“This case is the culmination of decades of attacks on working people by corporate CEOs, the wealthiest 1 percent, and the politicians that do their bidding to rig the economy in their favor,” said the Communication Workers of America (CWA) in a message to members urging support for the Day of Action.
“It’s meant to destroy the ability of people who work in the public sector, including more than 100,000 CWA members, to join together in unions to negotiate better wages, benefits, and protections that improve working conditions and set standards for everyone,” continued the union in its message.
To emphasize that the fight to unrig the economy would continue no matter how the Supreme Court rules on Janus, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) organized on-the-job actions that the union called #WeRise at 600 work sites on the Monday after the Day of Action, the same day that the Court heard Janus arguments from both sides.
SEIU reports that tens of thousands of SEIU and Fight for $15 members participated in #WeRise actions, which included some walkouts, to announce that the union would continue organizing and fighting to give working people a voice on the job, in their communities, and to elected officials.
“I know some people aren’t well informed on the benefits of having a union job,” said Kim Akins, an SEIU Local 73 in Chicago explaining why on-the-job organizing is important. “You have a sisterhood and brotherhood in this organization. If and when you are put in a situation when you have some type of issue in your workplace, you are not alone in facing it. You are stronger in numbers rather than trying to be a solo act and think that you can work a problem out alone. A closed mouth is never fed.”