On Monday, February 26, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that will determine whether working Americans can join together to bargain for better pay, healthcare and retirement benefits, working conditions, and career opportunities.
At first glance, the legal action, Janus v. AFSCME, would weaken public-employee unions. But the billionaires, corporations, and foundations who are funding the case have a larger goal: weaken workers’ organizations in the private sector, as well as public service. It’s an effort to further rig the economy and every level of government in favor of the wealthy and well-connected.
If they win, you lose. In a study of Janus’ supporters, the Economic Policy Institute found some familiar folks, including the anti-worker National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and foundations funded by the far-right Koch brothers. These groups oppose raising the minimum wage, expanding health coverage, protecting health and safety at work, and providing paid family leave.
The one-two punch. These groups attack workers from every sector with a one-two punch. First, as in Wisconsin, they rollback public workers’ bargaining rights. Then they enact “right-to-work” (for less) laws, which makes it more difficult for private-sector workers to organize and bargain, costing workers an average of $6,109 a year in lost wages. In recent years, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and West Virginia have joined the so-called “right-to-work” states. However, it’s not all bad news; Ohio subsequently repealed “right-to-work,” and Missouri voters will have an opportunity to do the same this year.
Tearing down the ladder of opportunity. Weakening public employees will block a path to the middle class, especially for Americans who have been held back by discrimination. Almost 20 percent of African Americans work in federal, state, and local governments and in public education, and black women account for 18 percent of public employment.