Decision expected soon in Janus v. AFSCME - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Decision expected soon in Janus v. AFSCME

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WSIL — Unions across the nation are bracing themselves for an adverse decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus vs. AFSCME Council 31, which could provide one of the biggest blows to organized labors of the past century.

The court could rule as soon as Thursday in the landmark case, which could take away unions’ long-standing ability to collect fair share fees from non-members.

While those fees can’t be used for lobbying or political activities, they are used to cover the cost of collective bargaining and enforcing contracts.

“This is an attack on working men and women and working families in this country,” said Judy Simpson, a field representative for Local Laborers 773.

The Local represents about 4,000 members across southern Illinois.

She says the case is nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to take power away from workers and that the loss of those fees could hurt representation.

“If the funds aren’t there to pay for the legal action, to pay for the cost of negotiating these contracts and enforcing them, you can’t continue,” Simpson said.

The case was started here in Illinois in 2015 and claims everything a union does is inherently political, so forcing those fees on non-members violates their first amendment rights.

Unions say that because they’re required to represent all employees under contracts, whether members or not, those fees are used to ensure fairness and prevent free riding by non members.

While Union membership has steadily declined nationally, they still have a large base here in Illinois, where they represent more than 800,000 workers.

A recent study from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute estimates a decision in favor of Janus would result in lower union membership and lower wages for public employees. 

It projects Illinois union membership would decline by nearly 50,000 and the average salary would decrease by almost $2,000 per year.

“I think it’s an attempt to weaken our collective voices and not allow us to be the advocates for our students that we need to be able to be,” said Annette Jaynes, who teaches fourth and fifth grade at Lewis School in Carbondale.

She says that an anti-labor decision could stop people from choosing to be teachers because of lowered wages and benefits.

But she adds that no matter what the Supreme Court decides, she’s hopeful unions and workers will continue to fight.

“We know how to organize and we know how to get together and i think that’s been shown throughout the country,” Jaynes said.

Experts expect the court to rule in favor of Janus.

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