(02/27/2018)
A MASSIVE AND DESTABILIZING CHANGE COMING

The US Supreme Court's conservative judges are inches away of demolishing the last great labor unions for millions of public employees, with the likely result creating labor chaos for those members, their employers and state governments, using the concept of protecting free speech, a year's long effort sponsored by the Koch Brothers.

Compiled Bob Weaver

WV teachers and members of the public employees unions should likely consider their recent walk-out could be their last hurrah "strike" as the Republican right has actively pursued the elimination of USA unions for 40 years.

The final blow could be with the Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME, which hits the court this week.

The public sector unions have been among the last hold-outs, with about 6% of the nation's workforce still unionized, the public employee unions the hold-outs.

Fifty years ago, nearly a third of U.S. workers belonged to a union.

The Supreme Court case is poised to decimate public-sector unions—and it's been made possible by a network of right-wing billionaires, think tanks and corporations.

The Roman god Janus was known for having two faces. It is a fitting name for the U.S. Supreme Court case scheduled for oral arguments February 26, Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, that could deal a devastating blow to public-sector unions and workers nationwide.

In the past decade, a small group of people working for deep-pocketed corporate interests, conservative think tanks and right-wing foundations have bankrolled a series of lawsuits to end what they call "forced unionization." They say they fight in the name of "free speech," "worker rights" and "workplace freedom."

They have relentlessly used the voices and faces of pro-worker teachers and public employees to make their case.

Behind closed doors, a different face is revealed. Those same people cheer "defunding" and "bankrupting" unions to deal a "mortal blow."

The first rule of the national network of right-wing think tanks is to be pro-worker, not anti-union … Don't rant against unions. … Using phrases like 'union fat cats' and 'corrupt union bosses' and other negative language reduces support for reform.

The Janus case, and its precursor, Friedrichs v. the California Teachers Association, represent SPN's most audacious move yet, an effort to kneecap the unions of public-sector workers—including teachers, nurses, sanitation workers, park rangers, prison guards, police and firefighters—in a single blow.

Janus has its origins in a lawsuit filed by billionaire Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner. Rauner issued an executive order in 2015 instructing Illinois to stop collecting fair share fees.

At the same time, he filed a federal lawsuit to speed the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. Two SPN member groups—the Illinois Policy Institute and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation—joined the suit with plaintiff Mark Janus, who makes a much more sympathetic poster child than a billionaire venture capitalist. When Rauner was found not to have standing, Janus was allowed to pursue the suit.

Janus is a child-support worker employed by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. "The union voice is not my voice," Janus wrote in a Chicago Tribune.

The Court decided 40 years ago in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that fair share fees are constitutional. The decision tried to balance the right of a union to exist against the rights of any workers who don't want to be members.

Since unions must represent all employees in contract negotiations, the Court held that nonmembers could be assessed a fee to cover the costs associated with this representation. But, the Court said, nonmembers could not be charged for costs associated with political activities. Today, fair share fees and political fees are separated. The Abood decision is not a good enough compromise for the Janus lawyers, who argue everything a public-sector union does is political.

Overturning Abood would be "a right to a free ride, nothing more, nothing less," says Joel Rogers, a University of Wisconsin law professor. "There's no question that it'll have a devastating financial effect on public-sector unions, at least in the short term."

A trove of Bradley Foundation documents were leaked in 2016 by a sophisticated group of international hackers. The documents reveal the inner workings of a 15-year effort to build infrastructure in battleground states to support the Republican Party and tear down unions.

Charles and David Koch, the right-wing billionaires, have been bankrolling the effort to kill public-sector unions, and the fruits of their labors — Janus v. AFSCME — will be decided by the Supreme Court.

came before the Supreme Court, the brothers were front and center: The anti-union demonstrators outside the Supreme Court held signs prominently displaying the emblem of the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity. The Trump administration joined the cause, and the five conservatives on the Supreme Court are widely expected to jettison a half-century of precedent.

In the decades since the court's 1977 Abood decision, there has been a relative truce in public-sector labor relations: Unions receive "agency fees" from nonmembers for collective bargaining and other nonpolitical activities, and such unions have generally not gone on strike.

The Kochs propose to abolish agency fees, saying they violate workers' free-speech rights. But to come to that conclusion requires the justices to declare that basically everything public-sector unions do is covered by the First Amendment — a massive and destabilizing change.


Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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