‘An attack on all workers’

Why Janus v. AFSCME is a big deal for employees nationwide

The author is a Chico State employee and president of the local chapter of the California State University Employee Union (CSUEU 302).

Organized labor’s struggle to protect workers’ rights has been long-fought in this country and it continues today. Many attempts have been made in the courts to reverse the rights that have been won. On Feb. 26, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Janus v. AFSCME, the latter being the acronym for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the nation’s largest trade union of public employees.

The plaintiff is Mark Janus, an employee at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, who wants to abolish the practice of employees contributing union fees.

But the real goal of the lawsuit is to weaken workers’ ability to gain strength in numbers. Janus is backed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund, working on behalf of those who stand to profit if they can create a work environment where workers have few rights and little protection. A living wage, medical benefits, paid sick time and vacation are all in the crosshairs of the rich and powerful. This is an attack on all workers.

Together, through unions, we have fought for and won many rights and protections for workers. The 40-hour work week, weekends, fair wages and safer working conditions—just to name a few. When unions win, working conditions improve for everyone across the working landscape.

Here in California, the United Farm Workers was the first to have union contracts regulating safety and sanitary conditions in farm labor camps, which is now common practice. These are just some of the wins that all workers—union and nonunion alike—have benefited from. Organized labor to this day continues to fight for all working people.

In the end, everyone should follow what happens in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 26, as it will affect us all. Regardless of the outcome of this case, my co-workers and I are committed to continuing the struggle to improve life for all workers and we will not be deterred.