UFT v. Janus

After the Janus decision came down in June of 2018, it seemed as if all of New York’s unions and labor advocates had mobilized. Governor Cuomo had submitted legislature to protect the power of unions into the 18/19 fiscal budget, which was put in place shortly before the Supreme Court Ruling. United Federation of Teachers became one of the most active unions, and their efforts were not in vain. Fast forward to just over three months, and almost half of UFT’s new hires are full-dues paying members, according to an article on Crain’s. Many of New York’s labor leaders are speculating that UFT’s grassroots methods are the future of the labor movement in New York and across the country.

UFT did a great deal of recruiting to supplement the legislation provided by the City and State. In preparation for the ultimately definite Janus ruling, laws providing incentives for employees and power to union leaders were written into the budget. “The measure Cuomo signed in April, which was incorporated into state budget legislation, required public employers to promptly give unions contact information for all new hires and allow unions to speak to new hires during their first month on the job. It codified that workers may sign up to pay dues electronically”, according to an article posted on the Telegraph Herald.

This is due in a large part to organizing events, labor advocacy and most of all-open, clear information-UFT has managed to sign up a near majority of its new hires since the ruling came down. Having been granted the right to meet with new hires one-one-one, UFT’s Union Representatives had countless one-on-one conversations regarding benefits and union rights. They knew the needs of their employees and managed to approve paid parental leave a few short days before the Janus ruling.

The way in which unions organize, negotiate, and advocate for their members is unique to each union. Finding out and speaking to those needs is how UFT managed to start a positive ripple in a post-Janus work environment.

 

SCOTUS rules in favor of Janus in Janus v. AFSCME

On June 27th, after months of deliberation, The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Mark Janus in Janus v. AFSCME. The decision, which overturns the 1977 precedent set by Abood v. Detroit B.O.E., states that the fair-share fees once paid by non-union employees are a violation of their First Amendment rights.

The case began in February of this year. The lead plaintiff, Mark Janus, took issue with the possibility that he may not have agreed with his unions values and was still mandated to pay for them. Although the precedent set by Abood states that these fees cannot be used for any political or ideological purposes, Janus argued that collective bargaining and the basic operations of a union are political in nature. Union employees who are not dues-paying members will now reap union benefits at the expense of full-dues paying members. Because of this, unions fear a dramatic decrease in membership, since they are now required to represent all employees without the support of fair-share fees.

Proponents of Janus called this the protection of workers’ rights and free speech, while dozens of unions and worker advocates urged the importance of unions and the good they do for their employees and members. Opponents of Janus highlighted the voice that unions give the middle and working class due to the public influence that unions have. Many say the ruling will effectively destroy their public influence, and therefore the voice of the workers they employ. In an article from the Times Herald Online, one of the Court’s Justices spoke out: “In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote of the big impact of the decision. “There is no sugarcoating today’s opinion. The majority overthrows a decision entrenched in this Nation’s law — and its economic life — for over 40 years. As a result, it prevents the American people, acting through their state and local officials, from making important choices about workplace governance. And it does so by weaponizing the First Amendment, in a way that unleashes judges, now and in the future, to intervene in economic and regulatory policy.”

A majority of U.S. states have banned fair-share fees long before Janus made waves. The 22 states that did not are union powerhouses. As District Council 37 Executive Director Harry Garrido put it, “Today’s decision is appallingly out of sync with both public sentiment and the difficult times now faced by working families”, in a statement on his union’s website. DC 37 is New York’s largest public union, and happens to be a chapter of AFSCME.

New York’s government officials have been staunch supporters of unions and organized labor, and now is no exception. A number of legislative bills added to the 2019 State budget were put in place as safeguards against Janus v. AFSCME, with the aim of narrowing certain services and levels of Union representation to dues-paying members only. Other bills provided further incentives-like making union benefits effective at time of hire and protected benefits during leave-rather than budget safeguards.

This directly effects most of our communities hardest working people-those of who keep our neighborhoods functioning.

Teachers, law enforcement, laborers, healthcare workers, and many more.

MDASR, LLP. stands in full support of New York’s public unions and the labor movement, and has for over 60 years.

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Read: the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Janus v. AFSCME

Supreme Court rules against mandatory union dues in Janus v. AFSCME

Major Supreme Court Decision Will Affect Public Sector Employees, and Could Reach Private Sector Workers in the Future

Legislative bills to cushion potential Janus ruling

 

Legislative bills to cushion potential Janus ruling

The 2019 NYS Fiscal Budget was completed two days before its April 1st deadline. While $1 million was allocated to investigate wage theft, new legislation introduced into the budget to soften the blow that the Supreme Court case Janus vs. AFSCME ruling could have.

The budget that was allocated to investigate wage theft is part of a larger goal to return nearly $40 million to individuals who fell prey to poor business practices in in the past two years. The money is meant to expand the DOL’s investigatory staff, according to the Governors website.

The bill meant to act as a safeguard for the potential Janus ruling will narrow some services offered by unions to dues-paying members only. According to an article posted on The Chief Leader, the bill limits representation in arbitration and grievance hearings to union members, and will not be covered under fair-share fees. Originally, these services were covered under fair-share dues-the issue at the heart of Janus. “The lead plaintiff in the case before the high court, Janus v. AFSCME, has contended that because public-employee unions are dealing with government employers, all their activities are political in nature, including wage negotiations and matters involving working conditions.”, noted the article on The Chief Leader, linked below.

About a week after that, Cuomo signed another bill to help New York’s unions. The secondary bill, signed on the 12th, provides incentives rather than budget protection like the legislation signed into the 2019 budget. The perks, according to amNY, require unions to protect member’s benefits during leave, allow members to pay dues electronically, allows a 30-day window for public employees to notify their union of the position they’ve been hired to and to sign up for membership. It also makes all union benefits immediately effective at time of hire. Many union officials, namely leaders from UFT as well as the president of AFL-CIO, came out in support of the bill when it was signed.

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New law gives boost to public-sector unions facing Janus threat

Why we need to Protect our unions from Janus

A Supreme Court case with a 40-year precedent has been brought back to the future. On February 26th, the Supreme Court began hearings on Janus vs. AFSCME and the constitutionality of compulsory Fair Share fees. These fees are paid by non-union employees who work in unionized jobs but are still represented by the union during contract negotiations and collective bargaining. The 1977 precursor to this, Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education, determined that fees by non-union members could not be used for political purposes. Janus’ response to this is that unions are inherently political due to the activities of negotiating, bargaining, and the general goings-on that give union employees a voice in their workplace. Many expect the case to have a verdict by June. On top of that similar cases in the past have shown an unfavorable pattern for unions, noted in an article on USA Today:

“The court has ruled 7-2, 5-4 and 4-4 on three similar cases in the past six years, eating away at that 1977 decision without overruling it entirely. In 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia’s death a month after oral argument denied conservatives their fifth vote — a vote Justice Neil Gorsuch is widely expected to provide.”

While opponents of the law are citing free speech as the main issue at hand, those supporting the law are drawing on the fact that many of the opponents are those who want to see a complete deregulation of business and workers rights.

New York is the most unionized state in the U.S., with hundreds of unions representing thousands of those who make our lives livable. Roughly 70% of public employees in New York belong to a union. Firefighters, police officers, correction officers, nurses, bus drivers, train operators, engineers, sanitation workers-the list is virtually endless. According to an article written in New York Times, 27% of federal employees belong to a union. On February 24th, dubbed Working Peoples Day of Action, two of New York’s leaders and thousands of union members protested and made their position clear-they will not stand to have Janus overturned.

Many unions are saying that overturning Janus would pull funding away from the very things that make unions so important. Union’s provide the opportunity for each employee to have their voice heard, and heard loud. The expected decision of this would hinder the chance for employees to have a say in their work place, their administration, wages, and more. They provide the opportunity for a say in pensions, health care-things that are imperative to the families of union employees. Dismantling the financial structure of such an important force would be detrimental to union employees, union families, and the city and state systems that unions work for.

Links

Cuomo, de Blasio rally with unions over pending court ruling

Massive Labor-Rights Rally Set for Feb. 24

Supreme Court may deal major blow to labor unions

Federal Unions Show How to Survive Even Without Agency Fees

A Supreme Court Showdown Could Shrink Unions’ Power