Beyond the con: Janus

We did it — and by a margin that no one expected. The UFT’s campaign helped convince New York voters to reject the constitutional convention, with an overwhelming 83 percent of voters saying no to the proposal on Nov. 7.

That victory at the ballot box is a reminder of what can be achieved when we stick together. No matter how tough — and well-funded — our opponents are, we can prevail if we are unified.

The next challenge we face is the upcoming ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus v. the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Lead plaintiff Mark Janus argues that it violates his “free speech rights” to have to pay fair share or agency fees. But free speech has nothing to do with it. Janus is funded by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an organization that the Koch brothers and other right-wing billionaires have invested in to take down unions.

They have placed their bets on the U.S. Supreme Court, once again controlled by conservatives, striking down the law by which public employee unions can collect fair share fees from employees who benefit from all the hard-won gains in collective bargaining agreements but who opt not to join the union. The high court is expected to abolish the law, depleting the resources of unions and effectively turning every state into a “right-to-work” state for public employees, including teachers

If that happens, it will be a heavy blow for workers. The term “right to work” is a misnomer. It doesn’t guarantee any rights or provide any work. Right to work guarantees the “right” not to pay agency fees. Right to work really means the right to work for less: Wages in right-to-work states are 3.1 percent lower than those states that do not have a right-to-work law, amounting to $1,558 lower annual wages for a full-time worker, according to one recent study. The same study found those unlucky workers also are less likely to have employer-sponsored health insurance and pension coverage.

In the coming months, we’ll need all hands on deck to get the message out about the importance of union membership and the critical difference it makes in our standard of living. We hope you’ll join our Union Proud campaign to help spread the word.

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