Feb. 26, 2018

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UUP joins D.C. protest against Janus

uupdate 2-26-18

Click HERE to watch UUPers chant at Janus demonstration in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Feb. 26

UUP joined hundreds of other unionists Monday morning, Feb. 26, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, as attorneys inside argued one of the most important cases in the history of the American labor movement.

That case is Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which started in Illinois, but now endangers public-sector unions throughout the U.S. by threatening to overturn the agency fee system.

A need to demonstrate

Even though most court watchers expect the decision to go against labor, UUP President Fred Kowal, second from left, with statewide VPP Tom Tucker, second from right, and statewide MDO Tom Hoey, right, said it was important for members to travel to Washington, D.C., to make their voices heard. More than 50 UUP members and staff made the trip, including Kowal, Tucker, Hoey, VPA Jamie Dangler, and Secretary/Treasurer Jeri O'Bryan-Losee.

More than 1,000 unionists were at the rally, representing a wide array of professionals from across the country. Labor's numbers dwarfed those of the pro-Janus supporters, who numbered around 100.

uupdate 2-26-18

Above, Dangler, second from left, shouts with members of the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, including PSC/CUNY First Vice President Mike Fabricant, right.

And they definitely cranked up the volume: Kowal outlined his reasons for demonstrating against the backdrop of raucous chanting, shouting and singing by unionists who drowned out their pro-Januscounterparts just a few yards away on the sidewalk.

The act of demonstrating, Kowal said, “brings power to us. Our members need to be activists, and sometimes that means being in the streets.”

Additionally, Kowal said, although conventional thinking suggests that the majority conservative justices will side with Janus, “you don’t know what the court will do. Given the chaos in the Executive Branch, does (Chief Justice) John Roberts want to issue a decision that will bring chaos to some 20 states? Because that’s what will happen.”

Members of a bargaining unit who have not joined their union are still required to pay fees in lieu of dues to the union. In exchange, the union is required to represent these non-members - and expend money doing so - in contract negotiations, and to defend them if they face disciplinary charges.

Free speech or union-busting?

UUP members, who volunteered for the overnight bus ride so that they could claim sidewalk space at dawn in front of the Supreme Court building, said the historic event was too important to miss.

“This one seems very, very straightforward to me,” said Bret Benjamin, a member of the UUP Negotiations Team and a past UAlbany Chapter president. “Under the guise of free speech, to diminish unions.”

Despite a decline in union membership nationally in the last generation, unions still do two things very well, Benjamin noted: They secure better pay and benefits for their members, and they get their members to turn out for candidates whose platforms support union values of equality, social justice and fair pay. Which, in turn, sets the stage for well-funded corporate campaigns against unions.

“Why does the right want to get rid of them?” Benjamin asked. “Because they work pretty well in these areas.”

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision in Janus by June.

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