If we care about employee freedom, we should care about Janus
In a little over a month, the Supreme Court is set to hear a momentous case on paying forced dues to public sector unions—Janus v. AFSCME.
If the Court rules in favor of the plaintiff, Mark Janus, every government employee across the country will have the right to choose for himself or herself whether to give money to a union.
Public sector unions have denounced the case, calling it a “political scheme” and a “threat to public workers.”
Most recently, the case was criticized by Marietta English—a vice president for the national labor union American Federation of Teachers (AFT)—in a piece titled “If you care about black people, you should care about Janus.”
But take a closer look and you will see that Janus, which pits a single state employee—backed by anti-union groups—against a public workers union, threatens countless Americans.
Many of those people are black. In fact, about 20 percent of black people work in the public sector. If you care about black people, you should care about Janus.
This case is about stripping public sector workers of their voice. It’s also about stripping them of their wages and opportunity to achieve the American dream.
If the Supreme Court rules against AFSCME (the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), those likely to take the brunt of the blow will be black people. Black civil servants.
Mark Janus is the lead plaintiff in the case, but he is arguing on behalf of the rights of all public sector employees.
If Mr. Janus wins his case, all public employees, regardless of their race or background, will have the freedom to choose whether to support a government union. Black employees who work in the public sector can continue to do so; their jobs will not disappear and their union affiliation—should they decide to be affiliated with a union—will remain intact. (It is worth mentioning only 12.6 percent of black employees chose to be affiliated with a union in 2017, and that percentage includes both public and private sector unions. While black government employees have a higher union membership rate than the other major race and ethnicity groups, a ruling in Janus’s favor won’t change this unless the individual members themselves choose to change their membership status.)
If Mr. Janus wins his case, public employees will not be stripped of their voice, they will finally get it back. Mark and other civil servants will get to decide who or what their hard-earned money supports instead of being forced to support highly political government unions just so they can serve their communities and their state.
Ms. English continues:
I also worry about how a loss in this case would harm public education. Teachers unions work to ensure that those who educate our children have the proper and necessary training, because when the requirements to be a teacher are too lax, we see ill-prepared teachers in the classroom.
A Janus loss would ultimately rob teachers of their strength in collective bargaining and allow under-qualified, lower-wage teachers to stand before our students.
As a former teacher who was not represented by a union, I have a different perspective. I received “proper and necessary” training through a licensed and approved teacher preparation program and was well-prepared to teach despite no union affiliation. I stood before my students as a qualified teacher because I met the state’s licensing and testing requirements. I could then direct all my attention to meeting my students’ needs and not worry about being forced to pay a political organization so I could keep my job.
Public sector employees deserve the freedom of choice—including the choice to belong to a union if they so desire. If we care about giving this freedom to all government employees, we should care about Janus.