This is what those who hope to silence unions don’t understand: Unions give voice, dignity, and a portion of the wealth that workers create back to them.
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Wednesday’s landmark 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME has implications for Washington state. While its impact will be more limited than public employee unions fear and their critics hope, it will politically rebalance the state’s Eastern and Western halves. The court overturned a 40-year-old precedent and the laws of 22 states, including Washington, ruling that “agency fees” – the monies workers must pay unions even if they refuse to join them – are unconstitutional violations of free speech in the government context. (The decision doesn’t touch private-sector unions.) Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion held that the collection of agency fees “violates the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”
I’ve served as an officer of the Professional Musicians AFM Local 105 since being elected in 1998, was elected to the international executive board of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) in 2010, and then elected to serve as secretary treasurer of the Spokane Regional Labor Council and the executive board of the Washington State Labor Council in 2015. There were three opinion pieces and an editorial cartoon in the March 3 Spokesman-Review which were misleading representations of unions. I appreciate the opportunity to provide a different view.
This spring, the Supreme Court will decide a case with far-reaching consequences for the future of public-sector unions in America. In Janus v. AFSCME, the court is weighing whether state governments can require public employees represented by labor unions to pay the fair share of the costs of such representation. Based on the oral argument before the court this week, there’s a strong possibility that a majority of the justices will strike down these “fair share” laws – and in the process deal a heavy blow to organized labor and its political allies. To avoid a fatal erosion of their funding base, public-sector unions need a new strategy. Their best bet is to allow those employees who don’t want to pay their fair share to give their money to a charity of their choosing.