‘An attack on workers’: Supreme Court strikes against public sector unions

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Daniela Cervantes/File

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A 5–4 U.S. Supreme Court decision Wednesday ruled that public sector unions across the nation are no longer able to charge nonunion workers any fees.

Previously, public sector unions received “fair share” fees from any worker who a union represented and was benefiting from union contracts. According to Hannah Kagan-Moore, a bargaining team member of the United Automobile Workers labor union, the court’s decision means that people who reap the benefits from a contract are not obligated to contribute anything to the union.

According to the decision of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (2018), charging “nonconsenting” public sector employees agency fees violates the First Amendment.

“Unfortunately, what this (decision) can do is weaken a public-sector union,” Kagan-Moore said in an email.

Currently, many unions are in bargaining season for their new employment contracts, Kagan-Moore said in the email. This recent decision may change some employment contracts, but some unions say they will not back down.

Christian Castro, spokesperson for Teamsters Local 2010, said this Supreme Court decision will not hinder the work done at this union. Teamsters Local 2010 is a labor union that represents more than 14,000 workers in the UC and CSU systems. Representing all kinds of workers, from administrative staff to the electricians and plumbers who keep these schools running smoothly, Teamsters members “are the engine of the UC,” according to Castro.

“We’re a worker-oriented, member-driven organization, and our membership has gone to 29 percent to 84 percent in the last five years,” Castro said. “Even as it’s gone up, we’ve been having committed members fighting for workers’ rights.”

According to Kagan-Moore, the public sector labor unions not only defend against managerial wage theft but also give workers the right to be protected from deportations, police violence, sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

Kagan-Moore claimed in the email the UC prioritized money over protecting the health and safety of its workers — “the people who make their university run.”

“We won’t stop until our contracts get fair wages for fair work, with protections against all kinds of discrimination,” Kagan-Moore said in the email. “We refuse to be intimidated.”

At Teamsters Local 2010, members will continue to do the work that they’ve always been doing, Castro said.

“It is workers that make unions what it is. It is workers that make unions as strong as it is, and it is workers that make it happen,” Castro said. “This decision is an attack on workers, but it won’t stop us from standing together and continuing to work together and fight for our members and people outside our union as well.”

Mariam Zagub covers race and diversity. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MZagub.