Phone: 425-252-3800

General Teamsters Local Union No. 38
February 26th and the Janus Decision Explained
Updated On: Nov 08, 2023

On February 15th 2018, we had our monthly General Membership meeting.  During these meetings, your Business Agents give a report on things that are happening in your shops and within Local #38.  I spoke about a conference that we attended on February 5th in Seattle.  Here are some notes from what we talked about.....

I thought I'd use my time to explain to you some terms you're going to hear in the news and over social media frequently over the next few months.  This directly affects YOU, Teamsters and all Union members, teachers, plumbers, electricians, police, fire, and EMT officers, city and county and Federal employees, Boeing machinists and ready mix drivers, UPS workers, warehouse workers and truck drivers, and grocery store employees.  And it will create a lasting impact on our benefits, our pensions and your representation in the work place.  I'm talking about the fight we are in against RIGHT TO WORK. 

Last week, all of your Business Agents here, along with union representatives from 119 labor unions and guilds, which made up 620 participants, attended a one-day seminar in Seattle about how to prepare our state's workers for the looming "Janus Decision".

That's a Supreme Court case that will be heard this month, on February 26th. 

In Janus v AFSCME (the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees), the 3rd largest labor union to Teamsters 4th largest in the world, a lawyer will argue tht requiring union-represented public employees to pay anything at all to their union would be an unconstitutional violation of their First Amendment Free Speech Rights, because that would be like making them pay for political speech and actions they might disagree with.  

How many times have I stood in front of you, our membership, and told you what I talk about and fight for in Olympia?  The Teamsters political agenda has always been about contracts and pensions and health care and minimum wage and sick leave and equal pay.... I have to think those are not controversial issues to our members.  

The Supreme Court addressed that same argument more than 40 years ago in 1977, in a case called Abood V Detroit Board of Education and came up with a compromise:  Union-represented workers who choose not to join the union don't have to pay union dues, but they can, if state law allows it, be required to pay an amount known as FAIR SHARE FEES.  Those are fees that cover just the union's costs of negotiating contracts and representing members.  

Plaintiffs in the Janus case want the court to overturn the Abood decision based on the argument that everything the union does, even filing grievances, is political when the employer is a government. 

A little history of who Mark Janus is.  In November 2014, a private equity fund manager with a net worth of over a billion dollars named Bruce Rauner, ran for Governor of Illinois.  One of his first acts in office was an executive order halting the collection of the fair share fees.  In hopes of making that order legal, he also filed a lawsuit in Federal Court arguing that the fair share requirement was unconstitutional.  The judge ruled that Rauner had no case because he was not personally a union-represented worker.  But the judge allowed the case to move forward by replacing Rauner with an Illinois child-support-enforcement worker, a member of AFSCME Council 31, making $71,000.00 a year under his union contract, named Mark Janus.  Janus has union dues of $45 per month. 

The Supreme Court has tried to reverse it's own 40-year old precedented decision and strike down the so-called "fair share fees" as unconstitutional.  Losing by votes of 7-2 in 2012, 5-4 in 2014, and most recently 4-4 in 2016, being tied because of Justice Antonin Scalia's death.  But a vote by new Justice Neil Gorsuch is expected to be the deciding vote that overturns this.  

The National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation will argue that the case is about free speech.  But if Janus were about free speech, you'd expect the nation's top defender of free speech, The American Civil Liberties Union, to defend it.  Instead, the ACLU says that employee free speech is already protected under the Abood decision because nonmembers don't have to pay any union expenses for political efforts.  To rule that they can't be foreced to pay for representation either would be against another First Amendment right, FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION, because it would force union members to pay for nonmember services and representation.  

Here's a scenario:

You pull up to the gas pump, and get a choice to pay the sticker price or skip out on paying the gas taxes and get .50 cent per gallon discount.  And if you choose not to pay the gas taxes, you can still drive on the roads paid for by the taxes that the other drivers paid.  Fair?

So... the US has approximately 15 million union members that make up less than 11% of the workforce.  Private sector, which most of you are, make up only about 6.5% of workers.  In Local #38, 69 of our 3,777 members are in the public sector, but the norm is that more than one out of every three workers in the public sector are union.  This percentage has held steady for decades.  But 5 million workers could be affected by this ruling in those states where public employees are forced to contribute.  Workers in 28 other states are not forced to join or pay unions.  An example of what this divide does:  7% of public employees in South Carolina are paying union members and 67% of public employees in New York are paying union members, Right To Work state vs non Right To Work state. 

Another term you may hear over the next weeks is "amicus briefs".  These are arguments filed that the Supreme Court will hear to determine their decision.  An example of organizations that have written the 39 pro-union amicus briefs set to be heard on February 26th are:

The Attorneys General of Washington State and ALL 23 states that are NOT Right To Work states, dozens of faith groups, the  mayors of LA, Chicago, Philadelphia, NY, and Seattle, the ACLU, the National Organization for Women, the Sierra Club, YWCA, Human Rights Campaign, National LGBTQ Task Force, United States Against Sweatshops and Union of Concerned Scientists, just to name a few!

All but 2 of the 36 anti-union amicus briefs are coming from legal foundations funded by the Koch Brothers, like the Freedom Foundation, the National Federation of Independent Business, state Attorneys General for 20 of the current 28 Right To Work states, AND the Trump Administrations Solicitor General, which is the law office just below the Attorney General in the US Dept of Justice responsible for filing cases before the US Supreme Court, to name just a few!

Today, the public sector is in some ways the last stronghold of real union power.  Maybe not enough power to call the shots, but enough to hang on a bit longer to the wages, benefits, and job security that used to be the standard ~ set by private sector unions ~ for every American worker.  If the stronghold weakens by allowing the public sector worker to have a choice to drive those roads without having to pay the tax that "others" will pay, all of our private sector union strength that we use to negotiate the contracts that allow for the Union Security Clause to put into your contracts WILL ALSO WEAKEN.  Eventually, with less dues coming in, there will be less representation for you.  

On Monday of last week, we were given a sheet from the President of Iowa's AFSCME Local 61, an example of bargaining topics under their public sector employees negotiating regulations of 

a. Things that can be submitted to an arbitrator for a final and binding ruling IF the parties do not come to an aagreement, but may not be discussed at the bargaining table.

b. Things that can only be discussed if mutual agreement between the employer and the union exists. and

c. Things that cannot be discussed by either party during the entire course of negotiations and included in that is:

     1. All insurance

     2. Retirement benefits

     3. Subcontracting language

     4. And wage increases, including steps

What MAY be bargained in Iowa is BASIC WAGE

~ Debbie Gath 

Teamsters Local #38 Political Coordinator and Business Agent

Please click on this link to a Facebook video of teachers  in Philadelphia speaking out about the looming Janus decision:

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