Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Union workers and advocates rallied outside the Supreme Court on Monday as justices heard the opening arguments in Janus vs. AFSCME. (Photo: @AlexMorash/Twitter)

'Assault by Wealthy Elites': SCOTUS Hears Case That Puts Nation's Unions on Chopping Block

"This case is a culmination of years of attacks on working people. It's an assault by wealthy elites on our freedom to create better lives and sustainable futures for our families."

Julia Conley

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the opening arguments on Monday in a case that workers and labor leaders fear could deliver a serious blow to public sector unions.

In Janus vs. AFSCME, the court will reconsider its 1977 decision stating that public employees who choose not to join unions can still be required to pay partial union dues, to help fund unions' collective bargaining negotiations, which hold benefits for all workers.

While AFSCME is the union that represents state and municipal workers, supporters fear that a decision in favor of Mark Janus—the individual plaintiff backed by a network of billionaires, corporate interests and right-wing ideologues determined to undermine organized workers—would threaten labor in all sectors across the country. As Andrew Hanna and Caitlin Emma wrote at Politico on Sunday:

The financial blow dealt by a Janus victory would far exceed the loss of nonmember fees, thanks to what economists call a "free rider" problem. Unions are compelled by law to represent all workers within a collective-bargaining unit—not just dues-paying union members. If workers are permitted to quit the union and still benefit from collective bargaining agreements without paying non-member fees, union non-membership will become much more attractive.

Wealthy conservative donors including the Bradley Foundation and the Koch brothers have contributed to the "right to work" cause represented by Janus for decades. The National Right to Work Foundation and the Illinois Policy Institute, which represent the plaintiff, have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from the groups.

Public sector unions and labor advocates including the National Education Association (NEA), Jobs with Justice, and AFSCME rallied in front of the Supreme Court on Monday, keeping up the momentum started by protests in cities across the country on Saturday's Working People's Day of Action.

Using the rallying call, "Unrig the system," leaders including Sarita Gupta of Jobs with Justice spoke out at the Supreme Court against the corporate power behind efforts to weaken unions.

"This case is a culmination of years of attacks on working people," Gupta told the crowd. "It's an assault by wealthy elites on our freedom to create better lives and sustainable futures for our families. Greedy billionaires, divisive extremists, and the corrupt politicians who do their bidding are rigging the rules in their favor in an attempt to gain more power. And we're not going to let that happen."

A ruling in the Janus case is expected by June.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

As Progressives Call for End to Blockade, Biden Announces More Sanctions Against Cuba

The move comes after Democratic leadership in the House blocked an amendment to roll back limits on how much money people in the United States can send to family on the island nation.

Jessica Corbett ·

Progressives Issue Dire Warning as House Bill to Extend Eviction Moratorium Dies

"If Congress does not act now, the fallout of the eviction crisis will undoubtedly set us backwards as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to ravish our communities, needlessly contributing to more death and destruction."

Brett Wilkins ·

Citing Donziger Case, Dems Raise Alarm About Use of Private Prosecutors in Federal Court

Private prosecutions of criminal contempt charges, said a pair of senators, "are highly unusual and can raise concerning questions of fundamental fairness in our criminal justice system."

Jessica Corbett ·

'About Damn Time': DOJ Says Treasury Department Must Give Trump's Tax Returns to Congress

"This case is now bigger even than Donald Trump's crimes. Neither the courts, nor the machinery of our government, exist to bodyguard a corrupt private citizen from transparency."

Jake Johnson ·

'Just Say That the Election Was Corrupt,' Trump Told DOJ in December

"It was a failed coup. Call it what it was. It didn't work! But they sure as hell tried."

Kenny Stancil ·