JANUS v. AFSCME, WHAT’S AT STAKE
On November 7th New York State voters roundly rejected the Constitutional Convention (83%-17%), fearing the disastrous ramifications of such a process. Many of the fundamental rights that our predecessors worked so hard to achieve could have been taken away by the same elected officials who relentlessly attack our profession. I applaud and thank all of our active members and retirees who exercised their right to vote.
The next issue that needs to be addressed is the outcome of the Janus v. AFSCME case in the spring/summer of 2018. Its aim is to destroy labor unions.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear this case during its current term. A decision is expected in late spring or early summer 2018.
What is at stake:
Janus vs. AFSCME poses a grave threat to the very existence of public-sector unions nationwide.
What's at stake is the principle of “fair share.” The question “should those employees reaping the benefits of being covered by a collective bargaining agreement and represented by a union have to pay their “fair share” or can they coast by as “free riders” without paying a red cent?” will be answered.
Can any one of us be part of an organization in our community without paying dues? How would the organization survive, serve or address the members’ needs?
Our members clearly understand the importance of BEING the union and the atrocities that our brothers and sisters endure in “right to work” states where the unions, are always struggling to maintain a majority and have little leverage to negotiate fair contracts.
As members of an effective union with a collectively bargained and legally enforceable contract, we are entitled to:
Higher competitive salaries and a comprehensive salary schedule
Lower health insurance costs and access to good health plans
Paid time off
District-supported Welfare Trust Fund benefits, including dental, vision, legal, copay/coinsurance reimbursement
Due process and basic job protections non-existent in non-unionized workplaces
Right to union representation, including free legal counsel in cases of discipline
Educational and professional support
A voice in safety, in working conditions and in ensuring high standards for our profession and in the services we provide
The ability to advocate for our students without fear of reprisal
The Current Legal Framework:
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision, unions have been allowed to collect dues from all private or public employees they represent. In New York State, the law says that those who choose not to join the union must pay their “fair share” for the union’s work that benefits them. Those members are called “agency fee payers.” These agency fee payers who formally object don't have to contribute to political or lobbying activities, but they must contribute for the unions' efforts in negotiating higher competitive salaries, benefits, working conditions, health and retirement benefits etc. in other words, contribute their “fair share.” The Janus case would overrule Abood and prohibit any “fair share” arrangement, allowing those members who choose not to join the union to pay absolutely nothing.
Wisconsin’s Act 10 negative effects:
The Wisconsin Act 10, which became law in 2011, severely limits the scope of collective bargaining and allows members to opt-out of unions. The law led to big cuts in teacher compensation, particularly for veteran teachers and especially in health insurance and retirement benefits. To make the situation worse, some Wisconsin districts moved from a single salary schedule to a performance-based and biased pay system after Act 10 was passed.
There was also a spike in teacher retirement immediately following the law’s passage. As compensation dropped, it became harder for districts to attract and retain highly qualified teachers. Educators hop from one district to another in search of raises causing higher turnover than usual. A study by Jason Baron found that weakening unions also led to decline in student performance, particularly in math and science, especially in struggling schools. The effects were fairly significant, comparable to sharply increasing class sizes.
The Janus v. AFSCME outcome could easily propel New York to a right to work state. Wisconsin's experience could soon confront teachers across the country to endure the same. I strongly urge to read an article by Lydia DePillis; Here's what happened to teachers after Wisconsin gutted its unions.
More than ever before, rest assured that the leadership of the WCT has been diligently working and is ready to address these issues. We have already taken proactive steps to educate our members in order to deal with the outcome of Janus. To protect and preserve our hard-fought benefits, the membership must participate in unity when called to action. I’m confident that by working together we can succeed and overcome this latest obstacle.
Pasquale Delli Carpini