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August 2018

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After Janus

In late June, the Supreme Court issued one of its most anti-worker rulings in history.

In the case of Janus v. AFSCME, the conservative majority ruled that public-sector unions could no longer collect "fair share" dues from nonmembers who benefit from a collectively bargained agreement.

The Court claims the case is about free speech. There could be nothing further from the truth. No worker can be compelled to join a union or support political causes they disagree with. What the Janus case is really about is politically motivated union busting.

For years, deep-pocketed right-wing think tanks and wealthy donors like the Koch Brothers have funded politicians and bankrolled lawsuits with the goal of destroying the power of the labor movement.

Their substantial investments paid off big time last year, when President Trump appointed known union-foe Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, giving conservatives a solid majority.

Make no mistake, this is not just an attack on public-sector unions. It is an assault on the rights of every working person. Because, as we have seen in state after state, attacks on public-sector workers' rights are almost always followed up by attempts to eliminate prevailing wage or to pass right-to-work legislation.

Janus is a painful reminder that elections do indeed have consequences and it underlines just how important it is that we clean house this November and elect a Congress committed to upholding, not tearing down, workers' rights.

Some members in good faith believed Trump's claims that he was on our side. This decision makes it crystal clear that if we care about our union, none of us can afford to make that mistake again.

Janus is an enormous setback, no question. But there is no reason for despair. Because history shows that the courts and Congress can never stop the power of a unified labor movement.

Labor's approval level is higher than ever, and more and more Americans are getting organized and joining unions.

Even in deep red states, where right-to-work has been in place for decades, union membership is up.

For example, in Texas last year, unions grew at their highest rate in more than three decades. We've seen union density go up in other southern states as well, including Virginia, Arkansas, Georgia and Louisiana.

And the recent series of teachers' strikes, mostly in states where unions are historically weak, shows that grassroots worker solidarity can win victories in even the most hostile political climates.

Our answer to the Supreme Court and to all the union-busters in Congress and our state capitals is to keep organizing and fighting on behalf of all working families.

More than ever, organizing must be our mantra and the center of all we do as IBEW members.

The IBEW's founders never gave up, even in the face of a hostile judiciary and political elite. Like those founding brothers, we will continue to work toward our mission of giving voice to working people, Janus or no Janus.


Also: Stephenson: Diversity is Our Strength Read Stephenson's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer