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The News Line: Feature USA public service workers fight anti-union attack
Nurses demand better health care in the US – US unions have accused the Supreme Court of bringing in laws to stop union building
IN ITS 5-4 decision on Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Supreme Court ended the practice of requiring public sector workers who benefit from union representation to pay their fair share of union fees.


A joint statement from the country’s four largest public sector unions called the decision ‘a blatantly political and well-funded plot to use the highest court in the land to further rig the economic rules against everyday working people.’

The country’s public sector is much more unionised than its private sector, and some fear that the ruling will weaken the resurgent labour movement there by starving it of resources. However, unions had a clear message in the wake of the court’s decision: we will not be stopped.

Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, said: ‘The right-wing and corporate interests that backed the Janus case hoped to “defund and defang” unions, but the labour movement in United States – and throughout the world – is not taking attack on workers rights’ lying down. We are mobilising and organising to stand for our values of equality, dignity, and justice.’

Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary, PSI said: ‘PSI affiliates around the world stand in solidarity with American public sector employees who will now redouble their efforts to build even stronger unions and continue their advocacy for quality public services despite the obstacles created by this ruling.

‘The Janus case is a blatantly political and well-funded attack by a wealthy network of right-wing anti-union “think tanks” to further rig the economic rules against American working people. ‘The billionaire CEOs and corporate interests behind this case, and the politicians who respond to their funding, have teamed up to deliver yet another attack on working people by striking at the freedom of public sector employees to come together in strong unions.

‘The forces behind this case know that by joining together in strong unions, working people are able to win the power and voice they need to level the economic and political playing field. ‘These corporate forces want to put an end to this and do everything they can to weaken the unions that give power to working people.

‘The case was started as a clear political scheme by the billionaire governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, to use the courts to attack public service workers. ‘And, in a letter to supporters exposed by The Guardian, the CEO of the corporate-funded State Policy Network (SPN) explains the true intent of their support for the Janus case and their nationwide campaign: to strike a “mortal blow” and “defund and defang” America’s unions.

‘The background of this case is clear and well established. ‘Since 1977, a Supreme Court case known as Abood has effectively governed labour relations between public sector employees and employers in the United States, allowing employers and employees the freedom to determine labour policies that best serve the public.

‘This new Janus ruling overturns that history and undermines the well-established precedence of the last 40 years. ‘After reviewing the history of this case, it is clear that the new Janus decision is an effort to manipulate the rights of working people, prevent them from joining together for better working conditions and diminish their advocacy for quality public services.

‘I know that, despite this decision, American public sector employees will continue the fight for their rights and will build strength through their unions despite the obstacles that the court has placed in their way. Public sector employees around the world stand with them.’
Below are responses from US labour leaders.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka summed up the spirit of the labour movement by saying, ‘We have never depended on any politician or judge to decide our fate, and we aren’t about to start now.’ Lee Saunders, President, AFSCME:
‘Unions will always be the most effective force and vehicle to propel working people into the middle class. ‘Despite this unprecedented and nefarious political attack – designed to further rig the rules against working people – nothing changes the fact that America needs unions now more than ever.

‘We are more resolved than ever to fight like hell to win for our members and the communities they care so much about. AFSCME members don’t do this work to get rich. ‘They do it because it’s a calling – and for that service, they deserve respect. They deserve the same freedoms as the CEOs and billionaires who continue to rig the rules against everyone else.

‘The American labour movement lives on, and we’re going to be there every day, fighting hard for all working people, our freedoms and for our country.’ Randi Weingarten, President, AFT: ‘The dissenting justices saw this case for what it really was – a warping and weaponising of the First Amendment, absent any evidence or reason, to hurt working people.

‘Not only was Abood well within the mainstream of First Amendment law, it has been affirmed six times and applied to other cases upholding bar fees for lawyers and student activity fees at public colleges.’

Mary Kay Henry, President, SEIU: ‘The anti-worker extremists behind this case want to divide working people, make it harder to pool our resources, and limit our collective power. ‘This decision is yet another example of how billionaires rig the system against working people, but SEIU members won’t let the extremists behind this case divide us. ‘We will stay united, help workers who are fighting to form unions, and call on our elected leaders to do everything in their power to make it easier for working people to join together in unions.’

Jim Hoffa, General President, Teamsters: ‘The Supreme Court’s ruling is at a time when so many Americans are struggling just to make ends meet. The Teamsters and our allies in the labour movement will redouble our efforts to ensure that working men and women have a voice on the job through strong unions.’

Bonnie Castillo, Executive Director, NNU: ‘The architects of this decision have a far larger goal than just hamstringing public unions and workers. They want to remove any opposition to their agenda of eliminating all protections on public health and safety, in healthcare, environmental pollution, clear air and water, food safety, and workplace standards, that they see as an impediment to their profits and authoritarian power. ‘Nurses will never be silent in the face of this ruling, or in any other threat to our patients, our members, and our communities,’

J. David Cox Sr., National President, AFGE: ‘On behalf of the wealthiest one per cent and special interest groups, the Supreme Court has attempted to strike the death knell for public sector unions, but the workers themselves will ultimately decide their own fate. Workers know the importance of unions in the workplace and they will survive. When union members pay to negotiate a contract for their workplace, everyone who’s covered by that contract takes home higher pay and benefits, has greater job security, enjoys improved health and safety standards, and gets help in settling workplace disputes.’
 
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