Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision could weaken unions

By Dave Hawley —

Janus v. AFSCME is a case currently before the Supreme Court that may have a significant impact on the power of unions. In my view, this case is an effort by powerful corporate interests to outlaw “fair share” for public employees, allowing some public employees to become “free riders,” not obligated to pay any dues.

Under current law, public employees are not required to join the union, but are required to pay their fair share for representation. Fair share reduces dues by the percentage of resources the union uses to support political causes and matters unrelated to the normal union duties of collective bargaining and union representation.

The Janus lawsuit is backed and funded by ultra-conservative groups like the National Right to Work Foundation. If fair share is outlawed nationally, our Locals will be required to represent members that refuse to pay any dues, including taking their discharge cases to arbitration. These free riders will also continue to enjoy all the benefits we negotiate, including our excellent Teamsters health and pension plans.

If Janus prevails, it will bring new strength to those who want a national right to work law for all workers, including the private sector. Obviously, this would reduce the resources unions have to fight for better wages and benefits. It will also reduce our political influence in fighting anti-worker legislation and supporting pro-worker legislation such as paid family leave, sick leave, overtime, job safety, and more. These important rights were achieved by utilizing the resources of unionized workers and their Local Unions.

As an IBT representative, I have had the opportunity to assist in contract negotiations for newly-organized units in full Right-to-Work states like Georgia and Florida. I was amazed that those states have no hours of work laws (like overtime or breaks), and no state disability benefits. If you get sick or injured off the job, you are on your own with no income to support you or your family. Nevada has been a right-to-work state since 1952—our members and the Local union leadership know how much harder it is to maintain union strength under those constraints. Those of us who live and work in California need to protect the worker-friendly laws and benefits we fought so hard to attain.

Joint Council 7 is working with all our Locals in planning for the worst-case scenario from this Supreme Court decision. We’ve held member communication workshops and we are planning for others, including training on how to run an effective new member orientation program. We are looking at introducing legislation that would require free riders to pay for the cost of representation if they need help from the Local. We have already passed legislation for the public sector that allows us time to speak to and sign up workers at new hire orientations.

The threat of an adverse decision in the Janus case is a real eye opener for our California locals and we must rise to the occasion. We expect the Supreme Court to render their decision by the end of June.

Plan to vote in June primaries

On June 5 in California, and June 12 in Nevada, you will have an opportunity to vote in the primary election. Our Political Director, Doug Bloch, and a team of Teamsters has worked hard to develop a list of endorsements of labor-friendly candidates — from federal and state races to local races as well. Please review this list before you mark your ballot.

If you’re one who says that your vote doesn’t count, just think back to a special election in March for the Virginia House of Delegates. The vote ended in an exact tie, broken by a coin toss. Every vote truly does count!

Jason Rabinowitz, President