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

Read our statement on the Janus v. AFSCME decision here. 


Our Union is Under Attack

The Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case effectively made our entire country “Right-to-Work” for public sector employees by eliminating fair-share fees. The anti-union forces that brought us Janus v. AFSCME aren't trying to ban unions outright. Instead, they’re trying to weaken us so much we are only a shell of what we used to be. But we don't have to let them have their way; when we know the value of our union, and decide to stick together by staying united as a union, the Janus v. AFSCME decision can't touch us. 


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 paid fair share fees to cover the cost of unions representing them- and everyone ends up getting the same benefits under the contract that union members fought for. When the Supreme Court ruled against unions in the Janus v. AFSCME case, the whole country became "Right-to-Work", which means fair share fees are no longer legal. You either pay union dues and are a member, or drop your union membership and don't pay anything.


What happens now that the Supreme Court has ruled against unions?

The anti-union billionaires that brought us the Janus v. AFSCME case are just getting started. Now that the case is law, the second step in their plan can start: they will launch a multi-million dollar campaign to try to convince union members to drop our memberships.

Janus now offers every public-sector union member in the country a tempting choice: the option to stop paying dues to our union while still receiving all the benefits of union membership. At first glance, it’s something for nothing, and the anti-union billionaires hope that employees will take that bait.

"Drop your union membership and give yourselves a raise!" they'll say. "It's your choice; why choose to pay dues?" they'll pitch to you. But these insincere messages are only telling half the story.

This "option" is a actually thinly veiled choice to shoot ourselves in the foot. We can only effectively fight for our rights by coming together; each one of us cannot individually stop our employer from doling out pay cuts, taking away our benefits, or making unfair changes in the workplace. The only way we can make things better for ourselves, and build power, is to stick together as a union.

Divided we fall. United, we bargain. Anti-union organizers will knock on our doors trying pick us off one by one, to weaken our collective power. What they won't tell you is that if enough of us drop our union memberships, we soon won't have the people power or funding to stay afloat to provide these "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", ban collective bargaining for public employees, privatize public services, run anti-worker candidates unchecked, and take away our political voice.


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 about the value of sticking together and union membership.

Their people are going to be knocking on our doors urging us to drop our membership, and we can end up losing members if we aren’t well-informed and prepared.

In places where unions are weak, employers will use that as a point to push against worker demands: "Only 40% of the employees are union members. Since you only represent 40% of the employees here, you don't really speak for them. Most of them are probably happy with their current working conditions." This applies whether we’re asking for a raise, changes in our contract language, or if we are pushing back against an 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, a 333 page contract that covered wages, working conditions, health and safety, discrimination, and other clauses, was reduced 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. They have been waiting for the Supreme Court decision to rule against unions, in hopes that it will weaken us, and make it easier for them to target our benefits.

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 if we don't commit to our unions. We are constantly fighting battles to keep our wages and benefits. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled against us with Janus v. AFSCME, if we our membership rates drop too,  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.

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. The our source of power is in our people, and that no Supreme Court case can change that.

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.