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The News Line: Feature US Working People’s Day of Action–February 24 ACROSS the US a Working People’s Day of Action calling on the masses to ‘rise up and fight’ for strong unions, and equitable pay has been called for February 24. Campaigners said: ‘On February 24, join thousands of working people and our allies standing up for our freedoms and demanding an end to a system that’s rigged against us.

‘We will rise up and fight.
‘Fight for the freedom to come together in strong unions.
‘Fight for equitable pay.
‘Fight for affordable health care.
‘Fight for quality schools.
‘Fight for vibrant communities.
‘Fight for a secure future for all of us.
‘When we join forces and stick together, we are unstoppable.’

Federal and state employees union AFSCME President Lee Saunders announced that the Working People’s Day of Action will take place the Saturday before the court hears arguments in the Janus case. Saunders and an AFSCME member from Illinois were joined last Wednesday by other national union leaders and members at a news conference to discuss the stakes in the upcoming Supreme Court case, Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 – the latest attack on public service workers by deep-pocketed corporate interests.

Saunders and Stephen Mittons, a member of AFSCME Local 2081 (Council 31) in Chicago, were joined by President Lily Eskelsen García of the National Education Association (NEA), President Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and President Mary Kay Henry of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The event took place at NEA headquarters in Washington, DC.

AFSCME said: ‘Bankrolled by CEOs and billionaires, the forces behind Janus seek to weaken the freedom of public service workers to join together in strong unions.
‘Should they succeed, decades of settled law will be abolished in ways designed to harm our strength. Powerful CEOs and the politicians who do their bidding have already rigged the economy against working people and in favour of the wealthy and powerful.
‘Those same CEOs are now asking the Supreme Court to make “right to work” the law of the land in the public sector.’

Saunders said: ‘The billionaires behind this case have grown so used to getting their way in America that they haven’t even bothered to present any real argument to the court based on merit.
‘If you look at the briefs they filed, it’s from the same old crony cabal, the same right-wing think tanks who have said they want to “defund and defang” labour unions.
‘They’re coming after us because they know that unions allow working people – especially women and people of colour – to build better lives for themselves and their families.’

Mittons, a child protective services investigator, fears that his own freedom to use his voice on behalf of his vulnerable clients could be harmed if the court rules against AFSCME.
He said: ‘My job is to head into some of the most impoverished, dangerous parts of Chicago to make sure that children are safe.

‘Often, the families I serve live – and languish, I might add – in poverty, in areas of high crime. They are the disenfranchised. They have no voice. ‘Because I have a strong union and a seat at the table, I have a direct voice in coming up with a strategy to better serve my community, to give a voice to families that no one wants to hear from.

‘When you rob people of the freedom to have that voice – if you take away my ability to speak on their behalf – you’re condemning those families and those kids to silence.’
Mittons also spoke of the ways in which his union membership has benefitted his own family, allowing him to help four of his six children through college.

Each of the other union leaders spoke as well, as did rank-and-file members of their unions, a group that included two teachers and another child protective-services worker.
Longshoremen’s union said last month: ‘The better pay, benefits and rights on the job that ILWU members and other union workers have enjoyed for decades are being challenged this year by a clever plan to weaken unions, called “right to work”. ‘The US Supreme Court recently announced they will hear a case in 2018 called “Janus versus AFSCME” that seeks to strip public unions of their right to collect dues from everyone covered by a union contract, and impose “right-to-work” rules on all public-sector union members in the United States.

‘A decision harming public employee union members is virtually certain because President Trump recently filled a vacancy on the Supreme Court with Neil Gorsuch, who holds anti-union views and favours big business.
‘Mark Janus is a public employee in Illinois who sued his AFSCME union because he objected to paying his small share of fees needed to cover the union’s representation costs that protect his contract, pay, benefits and rights on the job.

‘Janus says he opposes unions so strongly that paying any fees would violate his First Amendment rights. The Janus case has massive support from anti-union business groups.
‘In 1977, public unions won a Supreme Court decision called “Abood” that affirmed their right to collect dues or “fair share fees” from all workers covered by a union contract.
‘Since that decision, anti-union Presidents – especially Reagan and both Bush’s – appointed more anti-union justices to the court.

‘Two years ago, the Supreme Court heard a similar case – also backed by big business – on behalf of a California school teacher named Rebecca Friedrichs, who also held strong anti-union views. The court deadlocked on whether she was obligated to pay fees to the teachers union by a vote of 4 to 4, because Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly.
‘Anti-union politicians then blocked President Obama from filling the Scalia vacancy with someone who would respect workers and unions.
‘When President Trump filled the vacancy with Justice Gorsuch, he sent a green light to corporate America that “right-to-work” would soon become the law of the land for public workers, and eventually all union members.’

ILWU warned: ‘When the Supreme Court rules on Janus, it won’t just restrict the ability of unions to collect dues or representation fees – it’s likely to also maintain the legal obligation for unions to represent all workers covered by union contracts – even those who don’t pay any dues or “fair share” fees to cover enormous costs of representation and arbitration.
‘This “double-bind” is exactly how corporations behind the Janus case and “right to work” laws hope to frustrate, weaken and bankrupt unions.

‘The Janus decision will immediately affect public sector union members, but most observers believe corporations behind right-to-work will eventually ask the court to apply the same restrictive principle to all union members, including those with private-sector employers, including longshore, warehouse, industrial and service workers.’
 
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