Monday, February 26, 2018
US public employees mobilize as Supreme Court weighs union rights
“Just imagine if money is taken off your table, or you’re not able to send your child to college or you not able to retire because you don’t have a pension,” says Upchurch, a father of three children, ages 16, seven and five. “That’s what this case is trying to do.”
Upchurch was amongst thousands of US public employees and their allies who rallied in the US capital this past weekend to demand the High Court respect fundamental worker rights. The Court’s decision will directly affect nearly 18 million public sector workers, disproportionately impacting African-American women – who make up 17.7 percent of public employees. African-American women are paid only 65 cents of the dollar that their white male counterparts are paid – and unions help reduce this pay gap.
The issue involves “agency fees,” which are deducted from paychecks to cover the costs of union representation. The case was brought by an Illinois public worker, Mark Janus, against his union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and is part of a larger corporate attack on freedom of association in the United States and, more broadly, around the world.
“The loss of agency fees threatens to trigger an insidious free rider dynamic in which some workers avoid paying for the union’s representation thus weakening the union’s ability to defend the workers it represents, which in turn will discourage others from paying, perpetuating a destructive cycle that quickly undermines union strength,” says Joseph McCartin, executive director of the Kalmanowitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University.
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