On February 27, the Supreme Court will hear Janus v. AFSCME, the case almost certain to eviscerate public sector unions by proclaiming a national right-to-work for public workers. This is intended to kneecap unions such as AFSCME, SEIU, AFT, and NEA, i.e. most of the unions who can still fund massive organizing campaigns and GOTV efforts for Democrats. This nearly happened in 2016, but then Scalia ate one too many cannolis. Friedrichs was decided 4-4 and now we have Gorsuch. Making sure that the follow-up to Friedrichs would accomplish Republicans goals was at least as important to McConnell’s strategy to steal the seat as any abortion or gay rights case. The only chance that this has of going any positive way is that Gorsuch is such an asshole that he alienates Kennedy or Roberts to change their votes. Who is going to be hurt by this the most? Not surprisingly, it will be black women.
While the outcome of the case will affect about 17 million public-sector workers across the country, black women in particular could be hurt by Janus, as they are disproportionately represented in public sector jobs. They make up 17.7 percent of public-sector workers, or about 1.5 million workers.
Black women have traditionally faced a double pay gap—a gender pay gap and a racial wage gap. EPI research has shown that black women are paid only 65 cents of the dollar that their white male counterparts are paid. However, unions help reduce these pay gaps. Working black women in unions are paid 94.9 percent of what their black male counterparts make, while nonunion black women are paid just 91 percent of their counterparts.
The case is going to be based on the solid constitutional principle of fuck unions. Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but not too much. Moshe Marvit has a good overview of all the arguments and briefs that have gone into Janus. If you want in-depth analysis on key labor cases, he’s always the person you want to read.
If you are a member of a public sector union, the answer right now is to make sure you are signing up your members. Recovering from Janus, which will mean that any member of the bargaining unit can drop out while still receiving all the benefits of the union, including representation in grievance and disciplinary proceedings as well as the contract, will require that we all become more active in our unions. Sign people up, join committees, find new leadership if you have to. Sitting back and letting other people do the work in your union will just help usher in its demise.