Union Members Across Los Angeles React to Janus v. AFSCME Decision by Trump’s Supreme Court, Proclaim They Are Sticking With Their Union



Thursday, June 28, 2018
Contact: Gabriella Landeros, 323-406-3270, gabriella@thelafed.org

Workers Unite at City Hall to Show Solidarity and Commitment That California’s Unions Will Continue to Lead the U.S. in Worker Power

Los Angeles, CA – Today, in the wake of a ruling by Trump’s Supreme Court for the plaintiffs in Janus v. AFSCME, the workers who keep our Los Angeles communities running, along with community and faith leaders and LA residents, stood together at LA City Hall in a show of solidarity and commitment to unions.

California leads the nation in worker protections, and the workers of the Los Angeles labor movement are saying they are ready to fight back against this attack.

“Trump’s Supreme Court made a decision big employers hope will weaken our unions,” said Rusty Hicks, President of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. “The LA labor movement has news for them. When workers can choose – without fear or threat – to either stay in their union or leave it, they will choose to earn higher wages, protect their benefits and keep their workplaces safer. Those realities will overpower those who believe working people are worth less. To our adversaries: don’t bet against working people and their families. When we fight, we win.”

This ruling means that unions in the public sector – representing firefighters, sanitation workers, nurses, teachers, and more – may no longer collect fair share contributions for the collective bargaining work they remain legally obligated to do to negotiate wages, benefits and working conditions for members and non-members alike. For more than 40 years, non-members have contributed a fair share that supports their union negotiating on their behalf. The Janus decision means non-members are not required to contribute anything. Union members will have to pay for the representation of non-members.

“Unions negotiate wages, benefits and safe working conditions on behalf of public sector employees-nurses, police, firefighters, janitors, and teachers who all chip in and work together for that representation,” said Kent Wong, Director of the UCLA Labor Center. “The results speak for themselves. In states where everyone does not pay their fair share toward union representation, wages are lower, poverty rates are higher, fewer workers have health benefits, and the risk of workplace injury is higher than in states without fair share representation.”

“Each day at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services, frontline workers serve the most vulnerable in our communities,” said David A. Dunbar, an SEIU 721 member at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services. “Now more than ever, we will fight to protect our union voice and to advocate for the vital services our communities depend on.”

This decision was the culmination of hundreds of millions of dollars spent by conservative activists and corporate billionaires over decades to take away working people’s freedom to stand together in a union. The Janus v. AFSCME lawsuit was funded by conservative activists and billionaires, including the Koch brothers and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), who have been attempting for decades to roll back worker protections. The same think tanks and billionaires also fund a pro-mass incarceration, anti-immigrant agenda.

“As an elementary school teacher, I understand the importance of being part of a union,” said Juan Ramirez, a Los Angeles Unified School District elementary school teacher. “A union gives us a voice to advocate for our students and our communities. This attack encourages us to strengthen our collective voice so that we can continue to serve our students and their families.”

“Dismantling these union rights means dismantling the last good jobs held by Black workers inside of our communities,” said Lola Smallwood Cuevas, Co-Founder of the LA Black Worker Center. She noted that public employment is the only sector where Black workers and women have consistently been fairly represented in good paying careers. “With Black unemployment and underemployment already at a crisis levels, the impact of this decision will shatter this significant economic foundation and move more Black families into poverty. We must fight to preserve these wages and benefits that support so much of our communities.”

“Our union members are regularly exposed to hazards in the line of work, and we are fighting against contracting out, which would make our work less accountable to taxpayers and less safe,” said Andreas “Andy” Jung, a helicopter mechanic for the Los Angeles County Fire Department represented by AFSCME Local 119, District Council 36. “As full time County employees, we work hand in hand in a support role with the paramedics and firefighters and other employees who have a direct impact on the safety of residents. I believe the quality of union work is significantly higher because I am responsible for the brother who works next to me every day, and that’s why I’m sticking with the union.”

Though union members who work for private employers were not affected by the decision, many joined their public sector brothers and sisters to show support. “Regardless of this decision, I along with my coworkers will stand up and back all my union Brothers and Sisters!” said Mike Iovino, a Ralph’s grocery clerk represented by UFCW Local 770. “We work hard for our wages and benefits negotiated by our union. Being a union member gives me a voice in my workplace and I refuse to allow this decision to take that away!”