In response to Janus, Washington unions vow to grow stronger, more powerful
(June 28, 2018) — Hundreds of unions members in cities across Washington state rallied Wednesday to demonstrate their solidarity in response to the Supreme Court’s Janus decision that morning, which aims to undermine public employee unions. The union members’ message: not only will we continue to stand together, we will redouble our efforts to make our unions even stronger!
The court ruled 5-4 along ideological lines Wednesday morning on Janus v. AFSCME to impose so-called “right-to-work” restrictions on public employee unions nationwide. That means all state and local governments and all public employee unions will be banned from agreeing to fair-share provisions in their contracts which require all workers who benefit from a union contract to pay a representation fee to cover its costs, even if they choose not to be union members and pay full dues. Under the Janus decision, unions will be required to represent non-members, even if they don’t pay a penny to support the effort. (Learn more about the Janus decision and how/why it happened here.)
But hours after the decision was announced, union leaders and rank-and-file members gathered in cities across the state and vowed to stick together, remain strong, and redouble the fight for good jobs and fair pay.
Here are some scenes and comments from those rallies:
“The labor movement was born for times like this — we were born to organize and fight for worker rights,” said Lynne Dodson, Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, at Seattle’s Union Strong rally outside Harborview Medical Center. “The Janus case is just the latest jab in a long line of attacks by right-wing billionaires and greedy corporations. It targets our public sector workers — those who teach in our schools, care for the sick and elderly, our first responders, those who fight fires, keep our communities safe, keep our power on, maintain our roads, make our ferries run smoothly and safely. It’s a direct attack on those who work every day to put the GOOD in our public good. But you know what? It was true 100 years ago, and it’s true today — when you pick a fight with one of us, you pick a fight with all of us!”
Harborview caregivers, who are public employees of the University of Washington represented by SEIU HealthCare 1199NW, say they plan to keep their union strong.
“We are standing really strong here at Harborview,” Kimela Vigil, a Harborview behavioral health social worker, told the Seattle Times. “We know that our union is what helps make sure our patients are cared for well.”
“Our union is how we advocate and fight for ourselves and patients,” says Harborview RN Zeynab Jama. “Our union is a community. We stand together as brothers and sisters and we have unlimited support as long as we stick together.”
“The wealthy elite behind the Janus case have made a grave miscalculation,” WSLC President Jeff Johnson told the crowd assembled at Spokane’s rally at Riverfront Park. “They thought they could kill the labor movement, and instead they have issued a clarion call for labor to organize like we have never before.”
“No court decision, politician, or pile of money can stop working men and women from coming together to fight for better wages, working conditions, benefits, and stronger communities,” Johnson added. “They thought they could quash our voices and they have done just the opposite — we are louder and stronger than ever. And we will get stronger each and every day going forward.”
“This is a tough decision – but by no means does it mean the end of unions,” said Patty Rose, Secretary-Treasurer of the Pierce County Central Labor Council. “In fact, I believe it will empower us to fight even harder to maintain the gains we’ve made and fight harder for what we rightfully deserve. I will go to the Labor Council office tomorrow with a renewed sense of purpose. I won’t let the judicial system take away my union card — a card I’ve proudly carried for more than 40 years. I will fight today, and I will fight harder tomorrow. I need your help but I am confident that together we can win!”
“I don’t just work for the union, I believe in our labor movement,” said WSLC Political and Strategic Campaign Director April Sims. “My mom’s union job got our family off welfare and gave her the dignity that comes from working hard and earning enough money to take care of her family. So I know firsthand the value of unions and the difference having the freedom to join together makes in the lives of workers.”
“(Janus) is a significant decision,” Rick Wilson, executive director of the Vancouver Education Association, told The Columbian. “But it’s not going to change what we’re going to try to do for our members, which is be a strong advocate for them.”
At the rally in Everett on Wednesday, Tim Brittell, president of the Northshore Education Association, told The (Everett) Herald that the Janus case benefits the kind of people who would go to a grocery store checkout line with a cart full of items, then walking out without paying.
“That’s what these people expect. They expect to have something handed to them for free,” he said. “I was raised that if you get something, that you pay for it. You should not get my representation, my bargaining support — everything else — for free.”
The (Longview) Daily News reports: Local labor supporters — including two Democrats running for state and federal office — rallied Wednesday in Kelso following a U.S. Supreme Court decision that is expected to weaken public-sector unions.
“I think it’s important for us to emphasize that we are a union town,” Shawn Nyman, president of the Cowlitz and Wahkiakum Labor Council, said. “We were before this decision and we will be after this decision.”