The U.S. Supreme Court recently sided with powerful corporate-funded interests over working people in the Janus v. AFSCME case. It’s a political attack fueled by billionaires, including Gov. Bruce Rauner who first brought the case and anti-union forces such as the Illinois Policy Institute, which litigated it.
These rich and powerful forces want even more wealth and influence for themselves, at the expense of everyone else. They’re rigging the American economy and our democracy for their own benefit, using the courts to achieve their aims.
But readers of the Quad-City Times didn’t hear what the case was really about, or who was behind it, in Sunday's misleading editorial. Ignoring that Janus is just the latest tactic in a decades-long, big-money assault on the freedom of working people to have a voice on the job, the Times editorial board echoed right-wing talking points in trying to blame unions.
The truth is that where unions are strong, all working people are lifted up by higher wages, affordable health care and secure retirement. Workplaces are safer, child poverty is lower, and the pay gap for women and people of color is minimized.
When public service workers have a voice through their union, they speak up not only for themselves, but for the communities they serve: Teachers fight alongside parents to improve school funding, firefighters push for faster response times, nurses for better care. AFSCME represents city workers who maintain our streets, prison employees who keep us safe and child-protection workers who both rescue and advocate for at-risk kids.
When working people have a voice through their union, they have a fighting chance to level the playing field against a billionaire like Bruce Rauner, who spends more wealth to influence a single political campaign than most working families earn in a lifetime.
Now the Illinois Policy Institute’s national parent, the State Policy Network, is about to launch an $80 million campaign to convince workers to drop their union membership. If those anti-union attacks prevail, we’ll all suffer. As Times editorial noted, after private-sector union density was eroded by anti-union laws and outsourcing, “wages stagnated and pensions went the way of the dodo.” The Times may wish for all workers to join this race to the bottom, but the labor movement is the rising tide that lifts all boats.
That’s why recent polling shows that more Americans — especially young people — view unions favorably now than at any time in the last decade and a half. The wave of teacher strikes that succeeded in raising wages and school funding alike in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona reflect that trend. The challenges may be grave, but I’m confident that, standing together in our unions, working people will rise to meet them.