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Union activists, pols rally against Janus case

Lawsuit now before Supreme Court seen as detrimental to Democrats

Dominique Rouge
Union activists, pols rally against Janus case
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren rallies with union officials and Sen. Ed Markey (left). (Photo: Dominique Rouge)

Union activists and elected officials gathered outside a Boston fire house in Dewey Square Monday to participate in a Day of Action to Support Public Sector Workers, a rally that took place in cities across the country this weekend.

The rally was to protest the Janus vs. AFSCME case before the Supreme Court, which will challenge the rights of unions to collect dues from nonmembers who benefit from the collective bargaining agreements they negotiate. Mark Janus, the lead plaintiff in the case, filed a case arguing that a law requiring him to pay his local union for his collective bargaining rights violates his First Amendment right to free speech.

“This case isn’t about free speech. This case is about political power,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. “This case is about those who have wealth and power in this country, they want more wealth and power at the expense of all of you.”

Various media reports have showed a revenue stream connecting Janus’ case to conservative-leaning organizations.

Janus, the Illinois child support specialist who is suing the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, is represented by Jacob Heubert, an attorney with the conservative Liberty Justice Center, an Illinois-based, corporate-backed anti-union organization.

If the conservative-leaning Supreme Court votes, as expected, to exempt non-union members from paying “fair-share” fees to cover the costs of collective bargaining, public employee unions will likely see sharp declines in dues collected. The unions in recent decades have been reliable donors to Democratic candidates. On the other side, corporate political action groups, many of which are supporting the Liberty Justice Center and anti-union groups in other states, tend to back Republican candidates.

The upcoming vote could, therefore, have profound consequences for future races for state legislatures, governorships, congressional and Senate seats and the presidency.

Speakers at the rally Monday focused mainly on messages supporting organized labor. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren expressed solidarity with union members and supporters of the labor movement.

“We are here to fight for the right to bargain for pay,” she said. “We are here to fight for the right to negotiate for benefits. We’re here to fight for the right for workers to be treated with basic dignity.”

Mayor Martin Walsh emphasized the importance of solidarity.

“Instead of pulling down public workers, what we should be talking about is how we pull up all workers,” he said. “Instead of driving American workers apart, we need to learn how we pull them all together.”

More than a dozen other union leaders spoke, emphasizing similar themes.