Janus v. AFSCME: What does it mean for us?


Our Union is Under Attack

The Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case could effectively make our entire country “Right-to-Work” for public sector employees. If the Supreme Court rules against unions, Local 21 members’ dues would be paying for the services of non-members who wouldn’t pay fair share fees any more.


What are Fair Share Fees, and what is "Right-to-Work"?

Under the law, labor unions are required to represent and bargain for EVERYONE in the workplace, whether they are union members or not. Union members pay dues. Non-members pay fair share fees to cover the cost of unions representing them- and they get the same benefits under the contract that members do. If the Supreme Court rules against unions in the Janus v. AFSCME case, the whole country would become "Right-to-Work", which means fair share fees would be eliminated. That means Local 21 members' dues would suddenly be paying for benefits for non-members, and our resources and power would fall at the same time.

What happens if the Supreme Court rules against unions?

The anti-union billionaires that brought us the Janus v. AFSCME case won't stop there. Once the case is law, a multi-million dollar campaign will be launched by these anti-union forces to try to convince union members to drop our membership too.

What they won't tell union members is that if their plan works, unions won't have the funding to stay afloat to provide "free" services for long. Their end game is to crush public sector unions and our political influence so that they can usher in an era of pension "reform", privatize services, run anti-worker candidates unchecked, and so on.

This is part of corporate interests’ bigger agenda to weaken unions, ban collective bargaining for public employees, and take away our political voice so they can usher in anti-worker politicians who do their bidding.

Will this ruling affect our contract bargaining?

Not right away. But the Janus case could really hurt our bargaining power the next time a contract fight comes up. That's why we need to educate and have conversations with our coworkers before that case comes down.

Their people are going to be knocking on our doors after the Janus ruling urging us to drop our membership, and we will end up losing members if we aren’t prepared.

In places where unions are weak, a common tactic employers will use is to say "Only 40% of the employees are union members. Because you only represent 40% of the employees here, we will only listen to 40% of what you say." This applies whether you’re asking for a raise, changes in your in your contract language, or if we are pushing back against the employer trying to make us pay more for our pensions.

Your employer knows how many people are members of our union. Union membership is union strength. Low membership means less power.

How has "Right-to-Work" affected other states?

We've seen the effects of "Right-to-Work" on workers and their unions in other states like Wisconsin, when the workers were not prepared for the attacks. Union contracts were reduced, in one example from a 333 page document that covered wages, working conditions, health and safety, discrimination, and other clauses, to an abysmal 5-page document. You can view the incredibly jarring before and after below. The 328-page contract difference came only four years after Act 10 was passed in 2010.

AFSCME Council 24 2008-2009 MOU (Pre-Act 10 and "Right-to-Work" law)
AFSCME Council 24 2014 MOU (Post-Act 10 and "Right to Work" law)

One of our Local 21 members, Sam Greene, lived in Wisconsin when those anti-union laws came down. Watch the video below to see how it affected her work.


But that's Wisconsin. California and the Bay Area are different!

California may be known for its liberal politics, but we have our fair share of anti-worker forces here as well.

Anti-worker politicians have been coming for our pensions and benefits for years. We've just been able to stop them in the past because our union is strong enough, and had enough resources.

Take for example a former San Francisco Mayor's plan to lay off every city worker and rehire them part-time during the great recession.

Or our major pension battle in San Jose against the billionaire Charles Munger Jr. and politicians Chuck Reed and Carl DeMaio. Had it been allowed to stand, the pension "reform" would have cost the average Local 21 worker who had 20 years of service $235,553.97 in lost benefits. Recently, the backers of this attack on our pensions have expressed their desire to take it to the ballot box state-wide. But they say they will wait until next year, after they believe unions will have been sufficiently weakened to be unable to fight back and win. That is because by far our biggest threat to date is coming our way in 2018.

In Oakland, Mayor Libby Schaaf has already shown her anti-union streak during the recent December 2017 Oakland strike, saying "It’s not good for either the workers or the residents…For us to give raises that will result in us having to cut services and lay off workers.”

Below is a memo given to the the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors by the District's Interim COO of Administration: 

The "CalPERS Article" the COO referenced was actually a post from an anti-pension blog, not a legitimate CalPERS publication. Nontheless, the COO went to the board spreading false information.
But the employer still came to the table demanding real concessions, which we were able to fight off.

There are countless other examples we could point to of attacks against workers right here in the Bay Area. The point is, the Bay Area could look like Wisconsin in a few years after the Janus case is decided, and our entire country goes "Right-to-Work." We are constantly fighting battles to keep our wages and benefits, and if this court case is decided against unions, we could start losing those battles.

But what can I do against the Supreme Court and anti-union billionaires? I'm just one member.

We understand that this upcoming attack sounds daunting. However, as with all challenges, Local 21 isn’t going to face it without a plan. We can commit to strengthening and growing our union in the face of attacks to workers both locally and nationally.

We can't stop a Supreme Court case. But we don't have to. The court case is designed to slowly bleed out unions by making membership decline. We only lose our union and our power if we decide not to stick together, and drop our union.

You can keep our union strong by recommitting to being a Local 21 member today.

Sign the Gold Card today to CHOOSE UNION, and commit to standing together with your coworkers.

Every one of us can to talk to our coworkers, and tell them to talk to their coworkers about why we need our union.

If you want to do more than sign the Gold Card, you can volunteer to be a Volunteer Organizing Team member and talk to your coworkers about the importance of our union. Click here for the Volunteer Organizing Team form. Give the completed forms to your Local President or Representative/ Organizer!

This is OUR union, and it’s up to US to make sure that we understand what happening, and it’s up to US to make keep our union strong. We know we have a choice. And we proudly and unequivocally choose union.

Click here for the methodology on the Wisconsin vs. Local 21 changes in net pay reseach data on the Gold Card.

Click here for a Power Point presentation on Janus.