On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a 5-to-4 decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31 that profoundly affects the future of workers’ rights, democratic decision-making in the workplace, and the preservation of good jobs in public employment. Overturning 41 years of precedent, the Court elevated the objections of a minority over the democratically determined choices of the majority of workers, stopping state and local government workers from negotiating collective bargaining agreements with fair share fee arrangements.
Janus was couched in terms of the First Amendment. But it not really a about the Bill of Rights. Rather, it is a head-on campaign by the country’s richest elites to take down unions and build greater wealth and power. Its immediate goals are to undercut the wages, pensions and health benefits of public workers. It is an attack on the long-established rights of collective bargaining, without which working people confront an uphill struggle against corporate might.
“New York is a union state.”
Governor Cuomo is well aware of the meaning of Janus to the working people of New York. The very day Janus came down, he said: “The … Janus decision was advanced by billionaires and extreme conservatives who want to destroy the labor movement, and now those same forces are shamelessly trying to intimidate public employees into leaving unions. In New York, we say no way, no how to union busting. New York is a union state, and as long as I am governor of the State of New York, we will do everything in our power to protect union members and ensure the labor movement continues to deliver on the promise of the American Dream.”
He started months before Janus came down, spearheading a successful effort in the NYS Legislature that was passed. Dubbed “Part RRR,” it is part of the Budget Bill and relates to union dues and the duty of fair representation. It serves to blunt Janus.
Specifically, Part RRR requires public employers to:
- Notify the relevant union within 30 days of a new employee being hired, rehired, or promoted into a bargaining unit represented by that union;
- Provide the new employee’s name, address, and work location to the union;
- Require dues to be reinstated automatically if a union member employee leaves service but is reinstated to a position with the same employer in the same bargaining unit within one year;
- Recognize dues deduction authorizations that are signed electronically; and
- Continue to recognize an employee’s union membership during any paid or unpaid leave of absence, voluntary or otherwise.
We thank Governor Cuomo for making New York the first state to issue an Executive Order to protect public sector union members from harassment and to prohibit disclosure of personal information for all public sector employees. (See statement below.)
No denying, Janus will have profound implications in the U.S.—not just for the 6.8 million state and local government workers covered by a union contract, but all 17.3 million state and local public workers and, indeed, for every working person throughout the country.
But in New York, thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership, this pernicious case, financed by a small group of foundations with ties to the largest and most powerful corporate elites, is countered by unions, community advocates and New York’s pro-union Governor.
We are ready with Governor Cuomo and our many allies in labor and among community advocates to fight the forces behind Janus. The recent teachers’ strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma and others provide important examples of the effects of denying workers the right to collective bargaining. Working people are sick and tired of attempts to marginalize their jobs and the communities where they work and live.
We are closing ranks, and Governor Cuomo is with us.
IN RESPONSE TO JANUS DECISION, GOVERNOR CUOMO SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER TO PROTECT UNION MEMBERS FROM HARASSMENT AND INTIMIDATION
June 27 (the day Janus was hand down) [excerpted]
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed an executive order to protect union members from harassment and intimidation, representing the first state action taken in response to the Supreme Court’s Janus decision. The executive order prohibits state entities from disclosing personal contact information for state employees amid reports of individuals and organizations harassing union members or prospective union members. The governor also announced that he will be advancing legislation to prohibit the disclosure of personal information for all public sector employees, including state and municipal employees.