The Janus decision leads to stiff spines

Today was a tough day for all of us. We all knew the Janus decision was coming, but when it was combined with the gut punch of Kennedy’s retirement announcement… well, it’s pretty tough to swallow.

But then, the messages of strength and defiance started to come out from our brothers and sisters. From the LA Federation of Labor:

Trump’s Supreme Court made a decision big employers hope will weaken our unions. The LA Fed 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 is an attack on democracy. Conservative activists are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to take away workers’ freedom of assembly and to take away their right to collective bargaining. This makes it harder for working people to stand together on equal footing with their employers.
  • This is an attack on working people. Unions negotiate good 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. 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.
  • This is an attack on people of color. Across the United States of America, middle-class communities of color are built on stable, family-wage public sector jobs. This ruling robs unions of the resources to negotiate fair pay and benefits for the people who worked hard to win fair wages and dignity from their employers. There’s no greater example of freedom of speech than for women and people of color to speak and negotiate with our employer through a union.
  • This is an attack on the public sector. The billionaires and bosses who funded this court case want poorer schools and weaker public services. They want to send money back to their own pockets instead of into building strong communities.

We are standing together and will emerge from this attack stronger than ever. No matter the sector, all workers understand this is an attack on democracy, fairness, and our communities. Public and private sector unions are rallying and making a push to strengthen union membership and to demonstrate our unity and our commitment to the goals we fight for. We will ensure that the extremist groups trying to weaken worker rights will not succeed.

And from UC-AFT President Mia L. McIver:

Dear UC-AFT Librarians,

Today the Supreme Court accepted an invitation from a group of billionaires to dismantle the public sector in the United States by defunding public employee unions like ours. In their decision in Janus v. AFSCME, the majority overturned the law that has governed union dues for public servants for more than 40 years.

In doing so, they are attempting to limit our voice, the same voice that we use to teach and conduct research, the same voice that we use to advocate for our university and our students.  Their goal is to strip us of power by discouraging union membership.

They would love to return to the bad old days at the UC before we were unionized. At that time, UC admin held all the power. Raises were hard to come by, librarians had no control over their reviews, and nobody was guaranteed professional development funding.

Since we’ve had a union, we’ve been able to determine our own roles at the UC. We’ve received regular raises that far outstrip inflation, we’ve won job security for lecturers through Continuing Appointments, we’ve negotiated fair workloads, lecturers are guaranteed office space and other instructional support, librarians get to control the work on which they will be reviewed, and professional development funding is contractually guaranteed.  These are only a few of our many victories over the years that have improved our working conditions and thereby safeguarded the quality of education and research at the UC.

In the wake of the Janus decision, you can expect to see messages–commercials, billboards, even messages from UC admin–trying to convince you that it will be cheaper for you not to be a union member. This is specious marketing. Without our union, it won’t take long for UC executives and lawyers to erode all we’ve built. We only have the power to make positive change when we stand together as members.

The Janus backers are betting that they can divide and conquer. What they don’t understand is that our power comes from people, not money. There is no abstract union out there without you. You are your union!

With librarian bargaining in full swing and non-tenured faculty bargaining set to launch in the fall, we have ambitious goals for improving the university and our jobs. Each of us has a part to play in our democratic, member-led union. Now is the time to take a stand and stand together. If you haven’t already, join UC-AFT as a member today.  Our future depends on you.

In solidarity,

Mia L. McIver, Ph.D.

Lecturer, UCLA Writing Programs

President, UC-AFT

And at lunch hour, I joined other librarians from Unit 17 at a rally of AFSCME workers out in front of the UCLA Hospital. I marched with our brothers and sisters and join the chants: “Whose University? Our University!”


And we received word of similar actions and rallies at other campuses, such as Berkeley:

At the end of the day, I am reminded why we all joined this fight, why this bargaining campaign is bigger than just our next contract. It is about recognizing that this dark moment in our nation’s history will not break us, and we have already gained strength by rising up to fight. We ARE Standing – We ARE Fighting – not just for ourselves and our colleagues; we stand shoulder to shoulder with all union members at the UC, and by extension our brethren in public sector unions nationwide. We are standing together and will emerge from this attack stronger than ever.



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