EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
The 5-to-4 decision by the Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME is another stain on the Court’s spotted history. That June 27 ruling culminates the decades-long corporate assault on workers with a shameless display of right-wing judicial lawlessness.
In the decision, the Court’s five conservative justices invoke the First Amendment to prohibit unions representing public employees from collecting an agency fee for the cost of bargaining on behalf of workers who benefit from that bargaining but choose not to join the union. In doing so, they trampled the will of elected state legislatures and 40 years of precedent. Contrary to the Court’s claim, the case has nothing to do with individual workers’ free speech. Every worker is free to speak or organize as they choose. The Court isn’t protecting speech; it is protecting free riders, allowing workers to benefit from collective bargaining and representation without paying a fair share for its costs.
The ruling doesn’t empower workers; it weakens their voice and constricts their ability to organize at the workplace, in communities and in the public arena. This doesn’t protect speech; it just undermines public-employee unions. As The Intercept’s Lee Fang and Nick Surgey report, a gaggle of right-wing think tanks—coordinated by the State Policy Network and supported by the Koch brothers and a passel of big corporations—is gearing up a 22-state strategy to encourage workers to withhold paying their fees, in hopes of weakening and even decertifying unions.
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.