By DAVID GROVES
MEET MARK JANUS. He’s a child support specialist for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. He has exercised his right to withdraw from the union and not be a member, but by law, AFSCME Council 31 must still represent him.
Under his union negotiated contract, Janus:
• Makes $71,000 a year in a state where both the average pay for social work and the statewide median income is less than $60,000.
• Earns time-and-a-half for working overtime.
• Almost every year he gets a step pay increase and/or cost-of-living increase.
• Gets paid holidays and paid vacation time.
• Gets his choice of several health care plans and is also eligible for retiree health care coverage.
• Gets paid sick leave and paid paternity leave.
• Is eligible to receive a defined-benefit pension that, when he retires, will pay him a portion of his salary for the rest of his life.
• Has job security and the peace of mind that if some manager violates his rights or tries to fire him without cause, the union will represent him to protect his job and his family.
That job would be a dream come true for most social workers — and for most Americans. Thank you, AFSCME!
And for all that, Janus pays a fair-share fee of $45 per month to the union, about what the average American pays for a gym membership. None of his money goes to political campaigns, or lobbying, or any other community and charitable activities his union is involved in. Just the contract. What’s unjust or unworkable about that, you ask?
Janus and his pro bono attorneys with the National Right-to-Work Foundation, which is funded by the Koch brothers and other right-wing billionaires’ foundations, argue that $45/month violates his First Amendment rights.
You see, Janus doesn’t like that his union tries to negotiate for better wages and benefits on his behalf when the state is struggling financially. Therefore, he is being compelled to speak (Remember: money equals speech now in America) in support of something political, they say. That means everything a public employee union does is political, they say.
You see how dumb that is?
(David Groves is the Editor of The Stand and the communications director of the Washington State Labor Council. Edited and reprinted from the Strand.)