Trump Administration Files Anti-Union Brief in Janus Case

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

The Trump administration Justice Department has formally told the U.S. Supreme Court to kill union “agency fees” for public workers who are in union workplaces but not union members, effectively making every state and local worker in the U.S. a potential “free rider.”

If the court agrees with Trump and the anti-worker National Right to Work Committee in Janus v AFSCME District Council 31 – and unions expect it to do so – that would convert every state and local government into a so-called “right to work” shop. The committee, a right wing corporate front group, recruited a dissenting Illinois worker, Mark Janus, to be its front man in the case, which the justices will hear next year.

Federal data show unions have approximately 6 million state and local government worker members, and represent another 900,000 people who, like Janus, are in union shops but are not members.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka blasted the Trump government’s stand. “While President Trump boasts his support for working families, his administration is advocating a position in the Supreme Court that disregards decades of settled law and threatens our livelihoods. Yet again, his actions are failing his rhetoric and making clear he has no intention of following through on his commitments to working people.

“For more than 40 years…the law recognized unions and employers have the freedom to negotiate agreements under which everybody contributes his or her fair share. But now the Trump administration is urging the court to reverse this precedent and undermine working people and unions. This is a shameful political payback to reward those who seek to do working people harm. Arguing against our freedoms at work is not what working people expect of our government. Actions speak louder than words Mr. President.”

The court’s 6-3 majority legalized the agency fees in the 1975 Abood decision, but the Trump Justice Department faults that. Like the right-to-work crowd, the Justice Department says Abood violates workers’ constitutional freedom of speech rights by forcing them to pay agency fees for union speech they disagree with.

Agency fees cover only costs of contract bargaining and enforcement, such as grievances. But the Trump government’s brief retorted that when it comes to the public sector, everything is political and thus covered by the 1st Amendment’s freedom of speech clause.

“The decision failed to apply to collective bargaining the principles of free expression and free association it properly held prohibit coerced financial support for political candidates. Abood thus ultimately endorsed what it simultaneously prohibited: Compelled subsidization of union speech for political or ideological causes,” Trump’s Justice Department said.

“The decision relied on an empirical assumption – that exclusive representation in the public sector” by the union of the workers “requires mandatory agency fees this court has since rejected,” its friend-of-the-court brief says. Rejections came in two more recent cases, involving smaller groups of public workers, whom the justices said were semi-public instead.

The justices let the government file the friend-of-the-court brief. The Justice Department is not part of the upcoming argument of the case. But the justices may pay attention to this brief, anyway. That’s because the court tied 4-4 last year on the identical Friedrichs case.

Now, with Trump-named Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch added, union leaders expect to lose, 5-4. AFSCME is already re-recruiting its members to sign them up despite Janus.

“In any other circumstance, it would be outrageous to demand the benefits of a com-mon enterprise without paying one’s fair share. Union representation is no different. Eliminat-ing fair share fees protects people who want to get something for nothing and as a result, starves unions,” Economic Policy Institute attorney Celina McNicholas said in a blog.



Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Steel for Wind Power

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

Siemens Gamesa last month laid off 130 workers at its turbine blade manufacturing plant in Iowa, just months after GE Renewable Energy decided to close an Arkansas factory and eliminate 470 jobs.

The companies reported shrinking demand for their products, even though U.S. consumption of wind energy increases every year.

America’s prosperity depends not only on harnessing this crucial energy source but also ensuring that highly skilled U.S. workers build the components with the cleanest technology available.

Right now, the nation relies on imported steel and turbine components from foreign manufacturers like China while America’s own steel industry—well equipped for this production—struggles because of dumping and other unfair trade practices.

Steel makes up the bulk of turbine hubs and the wind towers themselves. It’s also used to make the cranes and platforms necessary for installing the towers.

Yet the potential boon to America’s steel industry is just one reason to ramp up domestic production of wind energy infrastructure.

American steel production ranks among the cleanest in the world, while China has the highest carbon emissions of any steelmaking nation and flouts environmental regulations.

The nation’s highly-skilled steelmaking workforce must play an essential role in the deeply-needed revitalization and modernization of the nation’s failing infrastructure. Producing the components for harnessing wind energy domestically and cleanly is an important step that will put Americans to work and position the United States to be world leaders in this growing industry.


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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work