Published: May 14, 2018

The upcoming Janus v. AFSCME case is the latest attack by powerful corporate interests to weaken collective bargaining power for workers to negotiate higher wages and overall compensation, including healthcare and retirement benefits.

Under state and federal law, all employees in a worksite are protected by the union contract and have representation for grievance. Today, people who don’t want to be a full member of the union pay “fair share” fees to help fund only the bargaining and representation work the union does. That gives employees a choice while also keeping everyone in a workplace united and protected.

 

What happens if the Court rules against workers?

Public employees could opt to stop being members—and not pay fees—but our union would still be required to represent them. Here is why SEIU 503 members tell us they are staying in the union:  

  • As members of the union we can increase our pay and benefits and have more of a say in workplace conditions. In states where more public employees remain members of the union, salaries are higher for all employees because the union has the power to negotiate from a position of strength.
  • Our union has our back when we are falsely accused of something or wrongly terminated.  SEIU is there for us when we expect it least and need it most, giving us a voice and a place to turn to when problems arise in the workplace.
  • SEIU ensures that the rules at our job are enforced and we are treated fairly. The union ensures that your employer can’t make you work overtime without getting paid and that you get the wages you’ve earned.
  • Our members have achieved major victories by standing unified In the last year alone, SEIU 503 leaders have secured $30 million additional funding for child welfare workers, made our highways safer for ODOT workers, and defeated more than 40 bills attacking PERS.

 

Why is this case being heard?  

The Koch brothers and a network of corporate billionaires are attempting to use the courts to weaken the power of workers to unite and negotiate better wages and benefits from a position of power. They know that the more union members there are, the stronger we are. If they can weaken the unions they can privatize government services to line their own pockets.

One particularly active anti-worker group , known as the Freedom Foundation, has used its influence to chip away at the progress our unions and members have achieved together. The Freedom Foundation operates in the shadows and hides their board members and true agenda. But they are part of the coalition to cut what they call the “retirement, disability and health insurance fund” of Oregon Public Workers. And here is what they say about Janus v. AFSCME: In a recent fundraising letter, they predicted the Supreme Court would side with Janus, writing: “[W]e may well be on the verge of an historic victory over government unions…The Supreme Court is about to hand us [corporate billionaires and anti-worker special interest groups] the opportunity of a lifetime.”

 

When is a decision expected?

The court heard oral arguments on February 26, 2018, and a decision is expected by this summer.

 

Will members be notified of the decision?

Yes. We are watching the case closely and will send updates to members about the case – and most importantly, the Supreme Court’s decision.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about how the Janus v. AFSCME case impacts you, please reach out to your organizer.

 

Where can I get more background on this case?

Here are some good resources:

Los Angeles Times story on where the lawsuit started and why

New York Times on who is funding the case, and why

Sacramento Bee on what’s at stake for public services workers

Portland Tribune on union membership post-Janus