SCOTUS To Hear Case Designed To Gut Unions

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Grassley’s Obstruction About To Pay Huge Returns For The Wealthy

Thursday morning the Supreme Court agreed to hear Janus v. AFSCME 

The SCOTUS has once more agreed to hear a case designed to gut public unions. In 2016 an 8 person – following the death of Antonin Scalia – SCOTUS deadlocked on a similar case 4 to 4.

Following Scalia’s death the radically right wing Republican Party went into the longest and worst ever obstruction in the history of this country. Led by Iowa’s own Chuck Grassley senate Republicans refused to even hold a confirmation  hearing for the Obama nominee for the high court, Merrick Garland.

In the beginning there were hopeful signs that this insane display of partisanship might actually result in the unthinkable – Chuck Grassley losing his senate seat. Grassley’s move was so unpopular that he took to holding his claim to fame “99 county tour” in the smallest towns at the strangest times. Even then he couldn’t avoid the questions on his constitutionally questionable obstruction.

It looked like maybe for once Iowans were finally catching on to Grassley’s highly partisan politics. Iowans finally realizing that for Grassley it is Party first and then little else mattered.

Then what happened is still being investigated. One can only say that it looked like Grassley had done himself in with his partisanship, but rose from the ashes to once again waltz back to the senate.

And thus his obstruction worked. One of the new senate’s first orders of business for Republicans was to confirm perhaps the most “conservative” (I prefer reactionary) justices ever to the Court. Gorsuch is pretty much a lock for Republicans on every issue as are Alito and Thomas. Roberts nearly so and Kennedy while not a sure thing is close to a sure thing.

So Thursday morning it was announced that the writ of certiorari had been granted to the case of Janus v AFSCME. This case concerns “agency” or “fair share” fees collected by unions from non-union employees whom the unions are required to represent.

Since a similar case last year ended in a 4 to 4 deadlock, it is probably a safe assumption that with Gorsuch’s vote it will be 5 to 4 against the union. It is also a safe assumption that this will be only the first of many cases that will be used to tear at the fabric of unions in this country.

Here is a summary from

Unions are required by law to bargain on behalf of every worker in a unionized shop, even if those workers opt not to join the union. As such, non-members receive the same higher wages (one study found that workers in unionized shops enjoy a wage premium of nearly 12 percent) and benefits enjoyed by their coworkers who belong to the union.

Absent something else, this arrangement would create a free-rider problem, because individual workers have little incentive to join the union if they know they will get all the benefits of unionizing regardless of whether they reimburse the union for its costs. Eventually, unions risk becoming starved for funds and collapsing, causing the workers once represented by a union to lose the benefits of collective bargaining.

To prevent this free-rider problem, union contracts often include a provision requiring non-members to pay agency fees.

The plaintiff in Janus asks the Supreme Court to declare these agency fees unconstitutional, at least in contracts involving public sector unions, under what can charitably be described as an aggressive reading of the First Amendment. Indeed, prior to his death, even conservative Justice Antonin Scalia sometimes appeared skeptical of the plaintiff’s legal theory (although he did join an opinionthat embraced much of it).

With Gorsuch on the bench, however, there is little suspense regarding how Januswill come down. Unions will almost certainly be severely weakened by this decision. And, as a benefit to the Supreme Court’s increasingly partisan majority, that will also weaken a key arm of the Democratic party’s political infrastructure, making it more likely that the Court will remain in Republican hands.

One other side effect of the destruction of unions in this country is that unions are one of the best defenses against the excesses of government and one of the few organizations that can stand up to fight the collusion between corporations and government. We have seen in the years since Reagan what weak unions have meant to corporations.

Also don’t forget that without unions all working people have fighting for them is the likes of Grassley. That should scare the hell out of anyone.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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