Janus vs AFSCME: An Attack on Worker Power2018-09-17T11:45:44+00:00

JANUS VS AFSCME:
AN ATTACK ON WORKER POWER

Resistance starts by being armed with knowledge. In this three-part guide on Janus vs AFSCME, you will learn:

  1. What this case was about and how it affects you
  2. Who is behind the attacks on public-sector employees
  3. The tricks and lies they’ll use to try to deceive us

JANUS VS AFSCME:
AN ATTACK ON WORKER POWER

Resistance starts by being armed with knowledge. In this three-part guide on Janus vs AFSCME, you will learn:

  1. What this case was about and how it affects you
  2. Who is behind the attacks on public-sector employees
  3. The tricks and lies they’ll use to try to deceive us

What is Janus vs AFSCME?

Janus vs AFSCME is a case that was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018. To understand what this case is about, you need to know a little something about our country’s labor law. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Federal labor laws already protect free speech and give workers the option of not joining a union. So what was Janus vs AFSCME actually about? Two things: weakening our ability to organize and our power to improve our livelihoods at the bargaining table.
Federal labor laws already protect free speech and give workers the option of not joining a union. So what is Janus vs AFSCME actually about? It’s about two things: weakening our ability to organize and our power at the bargaining table.

Under current law, every union-represented school worker, teacher, police officer, caregiver or other public service worker can choose whether or not to join a union. If they choose not to join, they still get all the good stuff negotiated in a collective bargaining contract, such as wage increases, health care benefits, job protections, and paid time off. So, it makes sense that non-members would pay their fair share since they benefit from the contracts negotiated by union members. In fact, a fair share policy was established in a law called the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. Fair share was challenged and upheld as constitutional in a 1977 Supreme Court case called Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education. However, the Janus vs AFSCME case was filed to weaken workers’ power by overturning the 1977 Abood decision.

On June 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court did just that. As a result, non-members now become free-riders who get to benefit from the gains won by union members, while not paying for them.

The ‘right-to-work’ connection:  Ever since fair share was established as the law of the land in the 1940’s, billionaire investors, privatizers, big business, and their bought-and-paid-for politicians, have been pushing ‘right-to-work’ laws around the country. On its surface, right-to-work is simply a policy outlawing fair share at the state level, but beneath it are racist roots and nefarious intent to rig the economy in favor of big corporations and billionaire investors. Right-to-work laws are designed to diminish the power workers gain through unionizing and collective bargaining.

Enough of the law speak. How does Janus vs AFSCME affect me?

Janus vs AFSCME was just one in a long line of junk Supreme Court cases bankrolled by billionaires and big business whose only interest is weakening the power of workers and increasing their bottom line. What does the Supreme Court’s decision on this case mean?

  • First, it means anyone in a union workplace can benefit from a contract without paying anything toward the cost of negotiating and enforcing that contract.
  • Second, what we’ve already seen in states where fair share was overturned is that anti-union groups (like the California Policy Center and the Freedom Foundation)—funded by the same billionaires and big businesses behind Janus vs AFSCME—launch a deception campaign to trick union members into resigning their membership.

This is where it all affects you: It may sound enticing to get something for free, but the fact is, nothing is truly free. When someone chooses to opt-out of their union and free-ride, it comes at the cost of hurting you, your co-workers, our families, and our communities.

Opting out and free-riding is exchanging short-term personal gain for permanent, long-term loss for everyone…
Opting out and free-riding is exchanging short-term personal gain for permanent, long-term loss for everyone…

How? Free-riding divides workers and being divided means weakened collective bargaining power. Opting out and free-riding is exchanging short-term personal gain for permanent, long-term loss for everyone in our workplace—loss of our bargaining power, our contract gains, our voice, and this is exactly how anti-union, anti-worker groups want it.

If enough workers start free-riding, this could create what amounts to a death spiral: our union loses funding, has fewer resources to negotiate good benefits and wages, and protect what we’ve gained over successive contracts, which further weakens our bargaining power.

When it comes time to negotiate a new contract, what incentive will our employers have to negotiate in good faith on our wage, staffing, and other proposals when they see very few of us are union members? What’s to stop them from making cuts to what we already have? How will those cuts affect us, our families, and our communities? To free-ride is to abandon the power you have to bargain for more and defend what we have, and to choose to go about it on your own, powerless.

From the mid-20th century to today, labor unions have empowered African Americans, Latinos, and other people of color to overcome poverty and racial discrimination in the workplace, enabled millions of working families to move into the middle class and send their kids to college. 

And as long as unions have been a vehicle for working people of color to attain economic, social, and racial justice – racists, bigots, and big business have been there trying to deny them of this justice. Trace the origins of Janus vs AFSCME and today’s anti-worker groups far back enough and you find them deeply rooted in a shameful, sad legacy of white supremacy, hate, and greed.

During the Jim Crow era, Texas businessman, political operative, and unabashed racist Vance Muse lobbied against unions after the passage of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which gave all Americans the federally-protected right to form unions in their workplace. Muse propagated right-to-work laws as a means to maintain and sow existing racial divisions and keep black workers disenfranchised.  The appallingly racist views of Muse and his Christian American Association coincided with the mentality of corporate managers dedicated to holding down wages and maintaining the kind of tight control over workers that hark back to the days of slavery. Want to know full story on Vance Muse and right-to-work? Read this.

Read More

Get the full story on Janus and the attack on worker power

A report from the Economic Policy Institute shows that Janus, and the two fair share cases that preceded it, did not grow from an organic, grassroots challenge to union representation. Rather, the fair share cases have been conceived of and financed by a small group of foundations with ties to the largest and most powerful corporate lobbies.

Read More

From the mid-20th century to today, labor unions have empowered African Americans, Latinos, and other people of color to overcome poverty and racial discrimination in the workplace, enabled millions of working families to move into the middle class and send their kids to college. 

And as long as unions have been a vehicle for working people of color to attain economic, social, and racial justice – racists, bigots, and big business have been there trying to deny them of this justice. Trace the origins of Janus vs AFSCME and today’s anti-worker groups far back enough and you find them deeply rooted in a shameful, sad legacy of white supremacy, hate, and greed.

During the Jim Crow era, Texas businessman, political operative, and unabashed racist Vance Muse lobbied against unions after the passage of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which gave all Americans the federally-protected right to form unions in their workplace. Muse propagated right-to-work laws as a means to maintain and sow existing racial divisions and keep black workers disenfranchised.  The appallingly racist views of Muse and his Christian American Association coincided with the mentality of corporate managers dedicated to holding down wages and maintaining the kind of tight control over workers that hark back to the days of slavery. Want to know full story on Vance Muse and right-to-work? Read this.

Read More

Get the full story on Janus and the attack on worker power

A report from the Economic Policy Institute shows that Janus, and the two fair share cases that preceded it, did not grow from an organic, grassroots challenge to union representation. Rather, the fair share cases have been conceived of and financed by a small group of foundations with ties to the largest and most powerful corporate lobbies.

Read More

Behind the Curtains of Janus vs AFSCME

Let’s boil it down – Billionaire investors and big business have a profit agenda that puts their profit interests over the interests of working families. They’re behind the unregulated privatizing of our public schools and the subcontracting of our jobs. Our unions have an economic justice agenda that puts the welfare and interests of working families first and foremost. This means unions play a role in keeping greedy profiteers in check and ensuring workers have an influential voice in the economic and political life of this country. They don’t like this and this is why, for decades, worker power across the country has been under attack. 

A Quick Backgrounder on the Janus Case

In 2015, Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner—a private equity fund manager with a net worth estimated at close to a billion dollars—originated Janus vs AFSCME in a lawsuit he filed against AFSCME Council 31 to try to ban fair share fees. When the Federal Court ruled Rauner didn’t have legal standing to bring such a suit because he wasn’t an employee represented by AFSCME Council 31, he found a Texas employee—Mark Janus—to allow the legal challenge to proceed in his name.

Soon after, the Liberty Justice Center (LJC)—an arm of the Illinois Policy Institute—and the National Right to Work  Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW) latched on to sponsor Janus. The Freedom Foundation also got involved. They’re the people who come knocking on your door to try to trick you into opting out of your union. These groups are part of a right-wing network of anti-worker, pro-business organizations funded by big corporations and billionaires who—for decades—have tried to undermine workers and their unions by sponsoring lawsuits like Janus vs AFSCME, and right-to-work legislation.

They’re the same people who destroyed entire communities and undermined our country’s manufacturing might by shipping jobs overseas to places where labor is cheap and there are no unions and no worker rights. Now they want to do that to the public sector by dismantling state and federal government and handing the provision of public services—like education—over to private businesses. Nothing is off limits for them. Nothing is sacred. 

Follow the Money Trail

We know who funds our union – we, the employees, do. But where do the California Policy Center, Liberty Justice Center, National Right to Work Foundation, and Freedom Foundation get their funding from? Let’s take a closer look at the dark money behind the attacks on workers. Click or tap the name for a description.

Donors Trust has been referred to by Mother Jones magazine as “The Dark-Money ATM of the conservative movement.” It was founded in 1999 “to ensure the intent of donors who are dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise.” Donors Capital Fund is a partner fund open to “clients with accounts that carry balances of $1,000,000 or more.” The largest funders of these Virginia-based organizations are Charles Koch, Richard and Helen DeVos, The Searle Foundation, and other wealthy conservatives. Combined, these two organizations have contributed millions of dollars to LJC, NRTW, and the Freedom Foundation since 2010. Since 2012, they’ve donated $86,750 to the California Policy Center.

This is the hub for creating, funding, and supporting a network of state-based “free market” think tanks around the country. Fueled by large donations from the Koch Brothers and other wealthy conservatives, the State Policy Network and its affiliates are some of the primary drivers of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) agenda in statehouses around the country. The Virginia-based State Policy Network contributed $59,100 in 2014 and more than $165,000 to the Freedom Foundation since 2011. Freedom Foundation found Bob Williams is a member of the Board of Advisers to the SPN. 

This Illinois-based conservative foundation funds the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, the American Enterprise Institute, the ALEC, the prominent climate science denying Heartland Institute, State Policy Network, and many other right-wing groups. The Searle Freedom Trust has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to NRTW and the Freedom Foundation since 2012. 

The Hume Foundation was founded in 1962 as a conservative/libertarian grantor and shifted its focus to charter schools and education reform in 1998. Located in California, the foundation funds many other State Policy Network members, as well as ALEC and the Heritage Foundation. The Hume Foundation has contributed at least $137,000 to the Freedom Foundation since 2011, at least $170,000 to the Illinois Policy Institute since 2007, and at least $285,000 to NRTW between 1999-2007

ALEC is a shadowy far-right group where corporations pay for the opportunity to peddle conservative model legislation to state legislators. ALEC has been forced into the national spotlight for its alleged support of “kill at will” gun laws after the Treyvon Martin shooting in Florida, and later for its refusal to acknowledge climate change as a real, man-made, human health threat. More than 100 corporations and legislators have since dropped or renounced their affiliation with ALEC, including Amazon.com and the Gates Foundation. 

The Freedom Foundation has been a prominent and active member of ALEC. One of ALEC’s most high profile publications is their “Toolkit” for state budget reforms. This 42-page document contains dozens of tips and policy suggestions for states to cut services, attack workers, and undermine the integrity of government. Freedom Foundation founder Bob Williams and Economic Policy Fellow Amber Gunn are two of the eight authors of the toolkit. In addition, the Freedom Foundation is credited as one of ALEC’s five “Publication Partners” and Williams is the Private Sector Chairman of ALEC’s “Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force.” Finally, the report cites the Freedom Foundation’s work in Washington as a model at least four times in the report.

Founded by heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, the foundation has been especially active on the issue of privatizing public education. They have contributed at least $1,050,000 to the Illinois Policy Institute, NRTW, and the Freedom Foundation, with the majority of contributions going to NRTW.

Founded by Investment banker Richard Gilder, who is past chairman of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. They have contributed at least $30,000 to the Freedom Foundation since 1999.

The F.M. Kirby Foundation is a private philanthropic foundation operated by the wealthy Kirby family. The foundation gives substantially to several billionaire-funded groups designed to seed campus chapters of conservative organizations, funds groups that reject the science on climate change, and takes interest in anti-union groups. They’ve contributed at least $300,000 to the Freedom Foundation since 2000.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation is, alongside the Koch brothers’ network, one of the chief funders of the conservative nonprofit world. Although the organization focused in its early years on local anti-poverty projects in Milwaukee and anti-animal cruelty nonprofits, as journalist Jane Mayer notes in Dark Money, a 1985 acquisition of the Allen-Bradley company by Rockwell International boosted the Foundation’s assets from $14 million to more than $290 million, “making it one of the twenty largest foundations in the country.” The cash infusion shifted the foundation’s focus to anti-government ideology.

They’ve contributed $976,500 to NRTW since 2003, $720,500 to the Freedom Foundation from 1993-2009, and $20,000 to the Illinois Policy Institute.

Founded by economist Milton Friedman, this foundation works to promote school vouchers and privatization.

One of several foundations directed by Richard Mellon Scaife, whose “wealth was inherited from the Mellon industrial, oil, aluminum and banking fortune,” that fund a wide array of conservative think tanks. These foundations have also been linked to anti-immigration and anti-Muslim operations.

Thomas Roe “accumulated his wealth as chairman of the board of Builder Marts of America Inc.” and he was founding chairman of the State Policy Network.

Founded by William Edgerly, former CEO of State Street Bank, with deep ties to the charter school movement.

The mega-donor Mercer family — one of President Donald Trump’s top patrons — has contributed $600,000 to the the Illinois Policy Institute (an arm of the Liberty Justice Center), since 2010 through their Mercer Family Foundation.

Learn more about who’s behind the attacks on working people at SourceWatch.org and take a closer look at the money trail behind the attacks at ConservativeTransparency.org.

Why Right-to-Work is Wrong for Workers

Watch this short video where former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explains why right-to-work laws are so bad for workers.

A False Slogan: False Then, False Today

On April 3, 1968, the day before Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated—he delivered a fiery speech to support sanitation workers on strike for union recognition in Memphis. In his speech, he warned them against being fooled by purveyors of right-to-work laws into thinking this was good for workers:

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights.”

Why Right-to-Work is Wrong for Workers

Watch this short video where former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explains why right-to-work laws are so bad for workers.

A False Slogan: False Then, False Today

On April 3, 1968, the day before Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated—he delivered a fiery speech to support sanitation workers on strike for union recognition in Memphis. In his speech, he warned them against being fooled by purveyors of right-to-work laws into thinking this was good for workers:

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights.”

Don’t Be Fooled By Tricks and Lies

Now that you know what Janus vs AFSCME is truly about and who’s behind it, it’s easy to recognize an attempt to misinform you and your co-workers.

The California Policy Center, Freedom Foundation, National Right-to-Work Foundation, Liberty Justice Center—any one of these billionaire-funded, anti-union organizations you’ve never heard of, will try to deceive you into opting out in several ways:

  • They’ll mail you literature.
  • They’ll send a staffer to your home to harass you.
  • They’ll go to your workplace and circulate literature and opt-out letters.
  • They’ll target you with ads on TV, radio or online.
  • They’ll direct you to websites they put up.
  • They’ll even recruit and pay your fellow workers to speak to you!

Remember, their ultimate goal is to weaken the bargaining power of workers and defund our unions, but they can only achieve this by getting you to voluntarily resign. This means they will lie to you, pretend they’re on your side and pretend their cause is noble. They claim they support workers, yet when you dig deeper, they offer no concrete policy solutions to do that. They’ll bring your family into the conversation. They’ll paint a false and distorted picture of our union. They’ll tell you, you can opt-out, save money and still keep what you have in your job. What they don’t tell you is what you stand to lose. Don’t be fooled and don’t let your co-workers be fooled.

Below are the kind of messages they’ve been known to use on workers. Click or tap on each message to read and understand how these messages are deceptive.

“Give yourself a raise!” | “Opt out, save money, lose nothing!”

“You can keep what you have without your union!”

“Unions force employees to subsidize political speech that goes against their beliefs”

“Your money, your choice” | “Your paycheck, your freedom to choose”

“Public unions are pressuring employees to sign away any potential new rights through ‘recommitment’ cards”