By TIM ROWDEN
The United States Supreme Court’s ruling against working people and in favor of billionaire CEOs and corporate interests in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, holding that requiring fair-share fees in the public sector violates the First Amendment of the Constitution, prompted an immediate response from union leaders and members.
As millions of American workers recommit to their unions and launch new organizing drives and as support for labor unions has risen to its highest level in years, it is shameful that the billionaire CEOs and corporate special interests behind this case have succeeded in manipulating the highest court in the land to do their bidding.
Public service workers — teachers, social workers, fire fighters, 911 operators — are more determined than ever to stick together in their unions. Unions remain the most effective vehicle for the power in numbers working people need to secure their rights and freedoms, and provide a pathway to the middle class.
AFSCME President Lee Saunders – “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 Labor Movement lives on, and we’re going to be there every day, fighting hard for all working people, our freedoms and for our country.”
Stephen Mittons, AFSCME Council 31 member, Child Protection Investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services – “No court case, win or lose, could ever change how important my work and service is to me and the community I care about. My union gives me the strength, freedom and the tools I need to help people and to provide for my family. That’s why I’ll always stick with my coworkers, no matter what. We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing: organizing and talking to coworkers and community members, building power for working people.”
ILLINOIS FEDERATION OF TEACHERS
Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) President Dan Montgomery – “This case was a direct attack on working people and the causes we fight for every day – protections like health care, safe workplaces, and small class sizes.
“This is personal for all teachers, school staff, college faculty and staff, graduate workers, and other hardworking public employees – but even more so here in Illinois, where Governor Bruce Rauner originated this well-funded attack.
“Rauner and his powerful friends are focused on eliminating unions because we are one of the last checks on their control and their attempts to rig the economy and democracy further against working people. No court case will divide us or stop our movement. We value our voice. We value our union. And we will keep fighting powerfully for the future we all deserve.”
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) – “Don’t count us out. While today the thirst for power trumped the aspirations and needs of communities and the people who serve them, workers are sticking with the union because unions are still the best vehicle working people have to get ahead.
“Strong unions create strong communities. We will continue fighting, caring, showing up and voting, to make possible what is impossible for individuals acting alone. The teacher walkouts this spring, with educators fighting for the funding children need, were an example of how we will continue to make that case — in the halls of statehouses and the court of public opinion, in our workplaces and communities, and at the ballot box in November — through organizing, activism and members recommitting to their union.”
Holly Kimpon, a high school teacher, AFT member and president of the Genoa Area Education Association in Ohio – “Regardless of the Supreme Court ruling, the teachers in our district will stick together to make sure we have a say in the future of our kids. We are a small union in a rural and conservative part of Ohio. But nearly all of the teachers in our district are full dues-paying members—because we know that teachers’ ability to create a safe learning environment for kids and make teaching a viable profession comes directly from being part of a strong union.”
NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION
Lily Eskelsen GarcТa, president, National Education Association (NEA) – “[This] radical decision by the Supreme Court is a blatant slap in the face for educators, nurses, fire fighters, police officers and all public servants who make our communities strong and safe. We are living in a system that is rigged to benefit special interests and billionaires, all at the expense of working people. Those behind this case know that unions amplify workers’ voices and transform their words into powerful and collective action. Even though the Supreme Court sided with corporate CEOs and billionaires over working Americans, unions will continue to be the best vehicle on the path to the middle class.”
Alex Price, band director and instrumental music teacher, Belmont High School and Wright Brothers Middle School in Dayton, Ohio – “Fine arts programs were being cut from my school and students were missing out on subjects like arts and music. My union negotiated with the district to bring back music so our students could have a well-rounded curriculum. When some school principals tried to renege on the agreement, as a union, we stepped up. Educators came together through our union and spoke out for what our kids need. Strong unions build strong schools and strong communities. We need unions now more than ever.”
Mary Kay Henry, president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) – “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.”
Sara Campos, Department of Human Services, SEIU Local 503 in Salem, OR – “My coworkers and I are not going to let this court decision stop us from sticking together in our union. We know that we are stronger together, and that matters when we are working to ensure our community is resilient when faced with disasters like earthquakes or floods. We won’t let any court case, billionaire, or propaganda campaign divide us.”