Early voting ends today, so you have one last shot to make it to the polling place tonight. Voting early ensures you don’t encounter any mishaps that keep you from voting on Election Day, March 6. Plus, the lines tend to be much shorter!
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This week a major attack against public employee organizations was front and center at the U.S. Supreme Court. A ruling is expected by June in this lawsuit backed by the same well-funded ideologues and interest groups that want to defund and privatize public education. To help you understand what is at stake in the Janus case heard Monday, we recommend you read this excerpt from AFT President Randi Weingarten’s recent opinion column in the New York Times:
The Supreme Court has long upheld that states can decide how they handle their labor relations, including explicitly allowing unions to represent employees, and that public employees who do not want to join the union that represents them may instead pay a “fair share” fee. This fee is meant to compensate the union for bargaining contracts and other services; nonmembers are not required to pay anything toward any political activity by the union. Twenty-three states have opted to do this, because collective bargaining has proven to lead to more efficient state services and a better quality of life.
Janus’ backers argue, with no evidence, that this 40-year precedent violates nonmembers’ right to free speech. The current ideological composition of the Supreme Court suggests that this one complaint could undercut the interests of millions of workers by depriving their unions of funds they need to function. That’s not an unintended consequence—it’s the entire point of these assaults on unions. Unions fight for a better life for working people, and the right wing sees that as a threat.
Unions help make possible what would be impossible for individuals acting alone. It’s how we were able to lift teachers’ salaries in New York City by double digits before the 2008 recession, so they were in line with surrounding suburbs, and how teachers in West Virginia are fighting right now through their unions for a living wage. Unions advocate for good public schools for all our kids, affordable higher education and health care, and a voice at our jobs and in our democracy. Right now we are fighting for the school safety and mental health funds Trump’s new budget eliminates.
When Mother Jones began organizing workers, during the so-called Gilded Age, employers’ power was virtually unchecked, the economic supremacy of the elite was entrenched, and the aspiration that Abraham Lincoln had advanced—“the right to rise”—was routinely denied to working people. The labor movement helped tilt the scales of oppression, and, by mid-century, American workers enjoyed safer workplaces and far better standards of living. That’s the movement the right wing wants to “defund and defang.”
“Never again” has been the cri de coeur for many—those opposing genocide, of course, and more recently, those decrying mass gun violence. It is also fitting for those who insist that our country must not revert to a time when workers were systematically denied even the most fundamental rights—a voice and a better life.