The mobilization effort, being held in cities nationwide, takes place two days before the start of the Janus case
By SHERI GASSAWAY
St. Louis is hosting a Working People’s Day of Action on Saturday, Feb. 24 to demand an end to a system that’s rigged against working people by wealthy and powerful corporate interests and corrupt politicians.
The St. Louis event, which is being held in conjunction with mobilization efforts in cities across the nation including New York, Washington and Chicago, takes place two days before the U.S. Supreme Court tackles Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, a case that could potentially decimate public-sector unions.
The rally begins at 11 a.m. at the Old Courthouse at 11. N. Fourth St. in downtown St. Louis. Speakers include Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis, St. Louis Labor Council President Pat White, representatives from Jobs with Justice and several local unions and state and local officeholders.
CORPORATE FORCES ATTACKING WORKING PEOPLE
Because of the recent attacks on working people, Americans are working harder and longer for less, voters are being turned away at the polls, immigrants are under attack and civil rights, women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights are under assault – all to give the wealthiest Americans massive tax cuts.
With the Janus case, those same corporate forces are now trying to use the Supreme Court to divide working people and limit their power in numbers because unions give workers a powerful voice in speaking up for themselves, their families and their communities.
Joe Klenc, CWA Local 6300 executive vice president and organizer of the St. Louis Day of Action, stressed the importance standing up for the freedom of working people to come together and fight for decent and equitable pay for our work, affordable health care, quality schools, vibrant communities and a secure future for all.
‘UP TO ALL OF US TO FIGHT BACK’
“It’s up to all of us to fight back against these attacks,” said Klenc, whose sister union CWA Local 6355 represents state workers who could be adversely affected by the Janus ruling. “If the court sides with Janus, it will basically force ‘right-to-work’ on every state employee.”
THE JANUS CASE
The Janus case was brought against AFSCME by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner in the name of a state employee, Mark Janus, who says he does not want to pay a “fair share” representation fee to the union.
The Supreme Court, now controlled by Republicans in a 5-4 split, will begin hearing the Janus case on Monday, Feb. 26. A decision against the union would affect public-sector unions in 22 states that do not already have “right-to-work” laws in place – an estimated five million-plus union employees.
In January, the AFL-CIO joined unions, public and private employers, elected officials from both parties, religious organizations, academics and civil rights organizations filing amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs in the Janus case defending working people’s right to effectively organize and negotiate.
“Working people have always had to fight for the freedom to work and retire in dignity,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Corporate CEOs and special interests have spent millions in their attempts to strip that away.
“Today, working people are taking this fight to the Supreme Court," he said. “We’re standing up for the freedom to sustain a family while still being able to take time off to care for a loved one, receive quality health care and enjoy a secure retirement.”
Meanwhile, the Trump administration recently announced it would oppose public sector unions in the case, reversing the view taken by the Obama administration in the nearly identical Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case.
THE FRIEDRICHS CASE
In the Friedrichs case, the plaintiffs argued that interactions between public sector unions and government employers are inherently political. Therefore, the argument went, mandatory agency fees to reimburse the union for the expenses of representation and bargaining were forced political speech, violating employee’s purported First Amendment right to not pay dues.
That case ended in a 4-4 deadlock in March 2016, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who had appeared poised to vote against the unions’ interests. The Obama administration had filed a brief backing the unions.
SAME STRUGGLE 50 YEARS AGO
The battle working people face today coincides with the same struggle Memphis sanitation workers faced in February 1968. That’s when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. joined the striking sanitation workers as they fought for the freedom to join together in a strong union and for dignity and respect on the job.
Fifty years later, working people and their allies will once again rise up during the Working People’s Day of Action to defend the same freedoms Dr. King fought and died for, including freedom from want, freedom from hate, freedom to vote and freedom to join together in strong unions.
As Dr. King told the sanitation workers in Memphis, “Freedom is not something that is voluntarily given by the oppressor. It is something that must be demanded by the oppressed.”
ST. LOUIS DAY OF ACTION
To RSVP for the St. Louis event, visit itsaboutfreedom.org. For more information, contact CWA Local 6300 Executive Vice President Joe Klenc at 314-852-8801 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.