“We actually make communities safer and…the right-wing is threatened by that.”
Union rhetoric about the Janus case has gone from hyperbolic to just plain crazy.
If successful in the Supreme Court, the Janus v AFSCME case will free public employees from paying a union as a condition of employment in 22 states. Government workers in the other 28 states already have been spared the unions’ forced dues regimen. The case is a replay of Friedrichs v CTA, which was on its way to passage a couple of years ago, but Justice Antonin Scalia died before the nine-member SCOTUS had taken a vote.
Lead-up to the case
As the February 26th oral arguments showdown neared, the unions entered Desperateville with a smoke-spewing engine, no muffler and horns blaring. Typical is the National Education Association website, which insists that Janus actually threatens working people. While the case is simply about advancing worker freedom, the NEA claims the opposite – that it “threatens working people’s rights and freedom to join together in strong unions.” The union then tries to convince us that evil corporate billionaire CEOs “do not believe that working people should have the same freedoms and opportunities as they do.”
The American Federation of Teachers states in an amicus brief that the case “warps and weaponizes the First Amendment by enabling one person’s complaint…to undermine the interests of millions of workers across the country who benefit from collective bargaining.”
The California Teachers Association argues that Janus is a case which attempts to “rig the system against working people.” The union asserts that the lawsuit aims to “take away the freedom of – and opportunity for – working people to join together in strong unions.”
Basically the union strategy is that when you don’t have an ethical leg to stand on, lie. And the bigger and bolder the distortion, the more likely that (some) people will fall for it.
Outside the Court during the oral arguments
The union true believers showed up bright and early to rally at the Supreme Court on the 26th. As one who was there to support the plaintiff, I was not really surprised at the demonstrator’s antics. Their signage, party-line all the way, excoriated the rich, corporations and of course the Koch Brothers. But their signs that read “Worker freedom” and “Unrig the system,” which clearly belonged on our side of the debate, were truly Orwellian. The latter sign prompted a question posed by a Janus supporter to the young woman who carried it.
Q: Could you tell me what your sign means?
A: (Pointing to the Janus supporters) “This” system.
Q: I still don’t understand. Can you tell me what system exactly?
A: (Quietly with an apologetic tone) Sir, I was just handed this sign and told to hold it up. Okay?
Obviously the woman was a shill. I guess the unions couldn’t find enough unionistas to buy into their whoppers and had to hire some ringers to do their bidding.
Most of the demonstration was peaceful, with union members (and paid help) making sure their signs obfuscated ours, screamed louder than we did and were consistently more obnoxious. In other words, it was business as usual.
Outside the court after the orals had finished
The scene was fairly chaotic. The media, with cameras and microphones in tow, besieged anyone they could get to blab about the case. Choice Media’s Bob Bowdon managed to corral American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who went on a memorable one-minute rant which included an amazing “no-matter-how-cynical-I-get-I-just-can’t keep-up” statement. She said that unions “actually make communities safer and…the right-wing is threatened by that.”
Memo to Randi: As the late Adolf Hitler pointed out, Big Lies can work. But “crazy” doesn’t play well at all. So maybe just stick with lies?
A decision probably won’t be handed down till June, and Janus supporters are optimistic. Known as the Court’s swing vote, Anthony Kennedy destroyed union arguments at every turn, using phrases like, “…your argument doesn’t have much weight.” Also, after the union attorney admitted that ending forced union dues would diminish the political power of unions, Kennedy responded, “Isn’t that the end of this case?”
On the other hand, new SCOTUS justice Neil Gorsuch said absolutely nothing during the arguments, which is a concern to some.
If Janus is successful in ending forced dues payments, what then?
Trey Kovacs, a labor policy analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, suggests a very simple free-market solution. “We could have members-only unions that only represent those who are paying dues and who want to belong.” In other words, if you want what the union has to offer, you buy. If you don’t want any part of the union, fine. You pay nothing to the union, but get no union-negotiated perks.
From the union perspective, Jessica Ulstad, political field director for the California Federation of Teachers, offers. “If we have less money as labor, we’re going to be spending less money on Democratic candidates, we’re going to be spending less money on things like ballot initiatives. We will all have to look at our budgets and say, ‘What is it that we absolutely are going to spend money on, and what are we not going to be able to do anymore?’”
Ulstad has it right. Should Janus fly, the union gravy train will likely slow down, but it certainly won’t end. Government unions are still powerful entities in most of the 28 right-to-work states. But I guarantee you, my neighborhood will be no less safe if unions stop extorting money from unwilling workers.
Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.