In the US Supreme Court Janus case, the court has taken the first step to dismantle organized labor in favor of the influence and power of corporations and Republican-leaning candidates. (https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-1466_2b3j.pdf)
The history of organized labor and the path to leveling the playing field between management and workers is one of violent resistance and bloody confrontation orchestrated by those who value profits over people.
Instead of taking a cooperative approach to bargaining with those whose labor powers the engines of business, corporations look to put a stranglehold on those who seek such accommodation.
In Janus, the plaintiff sought relief from ‘agency fees’ that covered the cost of collective bargaining. He argued these fees infringed on his first amendment rights because he objected to the negotiation positions and proposals decided on by the union.
While the majority of the court supported the First Amendment argument of the plaintiff, Justice Kagan, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Bryer dissented based on the sound precedent of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (432 U.S 209, (1977.)
In the dissent, Kagan wrote,
“Rarely if ever has the Court overruled a decision—let alone one of this import—with so little regard for the general principles of stare decisis. There are no special justifications for reversing Abood. It has proved workable. No recent developments have eroded its underpinnings. And it is deeply entrenched, in both the law and the real world. More than 20 States have statutory schemes built on the decision. Those laws underpin thousands of ongoing contracts involving millions of employees. Reliance interests do not come any stronger than those surrounding Abood. And likewise, judicial disruption does not get any greater than what the Court does today. I respectfully dissent.”
The majority ignored the precedent of ‘stare decisis’ arguing Abood was faulty in its logic. With this decision, as Kagan points out in her dissent, “the Court succeeds in its 6-year campaign to reverse Abood.”
What we have here is the best example of the danger in pendulum swings to extremes. An agenda driven Supreme Court is a danger to America.
In Citizens United (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310) the court put the election process up for sale. And despite Janus’s claims to the insidious and greedy nature of the union’s demands, organized labor is a pauper compared to the deep pockets of the conservative, Republican-leaning, billionaires club.
If this were a soccer match, the court just blinded the labor team.
Janus claims the union denied his first amendment rights because he disagreed with the union proposals. Nonsense. It is just as likely he preferred the old patronage system once so ingrained in state and municipal government, and the union was a roadblock to such practices.
Now, this is not to say unions are entirely blameless here. It may seem that unions ignore the greater public good when negotiating. This is disingenuous.
Public unions consist of taxpayers. Unions are not isolated from the public. They have as vested an interest in the public good as any other citizen.
The pendulum of law swings to and fro, with trends toward labor or management almost interchangeable. Except in this case. The court used this as a convenient smokescreen to weaken unions and the political philosophies they endorse.
The spread of so-called “right-to-work’ statutes are an unfortunate misnomer for taking the leverage away from those who perform the work and shifting it to those who control the jobs. Public unions were the target, but private unions are next.
The real enemy here is not the unions or even management but the political system that runs on power and money. In an unpublished manuscript by Professor Nicholas Easton, community activist and former President of the Providence City Council, entitled, The Political Machine Reexamined, Easton writes,
“To begin let me lay out a few propositions. First is the idea that, generally speaking, for at least a century or so the Democratic Party has represented the economic interests of the poor and the Republican Party has represented the economic interests of the wealthy.
Second is the idea that, generally speaking, there are only two sources of power in our democracy; money and people.
Finally is the idea that, given the two previous assertions, Republicans will win most political battles based on money and Democrats will win those based on superior organization and mobilization of people.” (excerpt from https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2018/07/04/guest-post-the-political-machine-reexamined-by-professor-nicholas-easton/)
Organizations such as labor unions serve an essential function in balancing the power in politics.
Being a member of a union does not limit one’s ability to vote for any candidate, support any cause, or oppose any policy. Freedom of expression, the venerable right of the First Amendment, is not silenced by “agency fees.”
This decision is a microcosm of all that is wrong in our political process. We have lost the once stable balance between those with the personal or corporate wealth to support candidates they endorse, and the collective assets of organized labor.
The ever-growing income gap, coupled with the disintegration of the middle class, now creates two classes in society; those who wield power through economic control and those subject to it.
Until we negate the power of money in politics, this balance between unions and management is necessary.
If you need more proof of the politics of this decision look at the plethora of organizations offering ways to “opt out” of union participation.
For example, https://www.mypaymysay.com/ part of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy https://www.mackinac.org/ which claims to be a non-partisan organization but is backed by a host of conservative Republicans.
Research shows these organizations are all backed by conservative Republican anti-labor groups. Make no mistake about it. Janus is not a First Amendment case. It is another volley in the war of powerful corporate money against the once competing power of unions.
And the court picked sides.
This is not the end, but it may be the beginning of the end of the balance of power.
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