Janus decision a blow to unions, Philly leaders say

The Supreme Court’s Janus decision ordering a change in funding for unions, released Wednesday, was harshly criticized as an attack by multiple Democratic officials and union leaders in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, where unions invest millions of dollars in political campaigns.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision is the unfortunate result of an ideological attack on public employee unions, wrapped in the guise of constitutional law,” said Philly Mayor Jim Kenney in a statement.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of an Illinois state employee who sued over a law which required him to pay dues for a union he was not a member of, but of whose bargaining group he was a member and by extension a beneficiary. That worker, Mark Janus, sued on First Amendment grounds related to the union’s political lobbying efforts he said he shouldn’t be required to fund.

“AFSCME, which represents tens of thousands of Philadelphia municipal workers, is required by law to provide collective bargaining for all union positions – and that benefits even those who choose not to become members,” said Kenney, who campaigned and has governed with strong support from Philly unions. “The high court’s decision will have far-reaching consequences for AFSCME, as well as other municipal worker unions including PFT, SEIU, and CASA. And most importantly, it is certain to impact working people who struggle each and every day to move into the middle class.”

On the other end of the political spectrum, Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor Scott Wagner praised the decision.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a huge step forward empowering workers and putting more money in the paychecks of public employees, for them to do what they want with it, not what union bosses want,” Wagner said in a statement. “With this precedent now in place, as governor, I will be able to make the necessary reforms to ensure that more Pennsylvanians can find jobs, they can be compensated fairly for them, and we can make reforms to the public education system we need. If Tom Wolf and the public sector union bosses are really committed to protecting and empowering workers they should celebrate this decision and the freedom it provides.”

But not everyone agrees the change will be a positive move. Some believe that many workers might ditch union membership after finding out they won’t be forced to pay dues even if they leave.

Leaders of various Philly unions criticized the Janus case, which was handled by attorneys from the conservative National Right to Work Foundation and Liberty Justice Center, as an effort spearheaded by wealthy business interests to undermine their groups, and vowed to fight back.

“The Court made their decision, and so have the members of my union. We are determined to stand strong,” said Charnel Brownlee, a Philadelphia School District bus driver and member of 32BJ SEIU, in a statement. “We know how the union has benefitted us and our families. We’ve been able to support our communities because of our good union jobs. This decision will not deter us.”

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