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Union Vows to Build Despite SCOTUS Ruling

The 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME says compelling nonunion workers to pay for collective bargaining is a violation of free speech rights. (Pixabay)
The 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME says compelling nonunion workers to pay for collective bargaining is a violation of free speech rights. (Pixabay)
June 28, 2018

ALBANY, N.Y. — At least one New York union says it was prepared for Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling that could weaken the bargaining power of public sector unions.

The 5-4 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME means public sector unions will no longer be able to collect fees from workers who get the wages and benefits negotiated by the union but are not dues-paying members.

Fred Kowal is president of United University Professions, representing more than 40,000 academics and faculty on New York state operated campuses. He said the decision was not unexpected and may end up strengthening the union.

"We're ready for a fight. We will be engaged in defending our rights and what we have gotten for workers,” Kowal said. “And we're going to expand our work so that we can get these benefits to the rest of the working class that are suffering so badly in the Trump era."

The plaintiff in the case argued that requiring mandatory fees to fund collective bargaining constituted forced political speech and was a violation of his First Amendment rights.

But Kowal pointed out that workers who don't join a public sector union still gain significant benefits from the contracts that the unions negotiate, such as the contract UUP recently worked out with New York state.

"It includes historic gains like paid family leave and minimum salaries for our academic part-time contingent labor force, and preservation of our excellent health benefits,” he said.

Kowal said nonunion workers paying an "agency fee" to UUP make up about 5 percent of those benefiting from the union contract.

While that 5 percent will no longer be part of the collective-bargaining unit, Kowal said a recent Gallup poll showed that support for unions now is stronger than it has been in decades.

"I think people are coming to realize what would be lost if unions get weakened more by this court decision or by other actions that could be forthcoming,” Kowal said.

He added that unions are proving to be invaluable in the effort to fight back against the growing economic divide between the very rich and everyone else.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY