Just one year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling, undermining over four decades of precedent, in what can only be described as anti-worker and anti-union. The Janus vs. AFSCME decision essentially took away our fair share rights forcing union members to pay for the representation of non-members. But what was said to be the nail in the coffin for labor, quickly turned into a rallying point with public sector unions shifting their efforts towards organizing.
“Just because big employers got a Supreme Court that would do their bidding doesn’t mean they got their way,” said Rusty Hicks, President of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. “The labor movement saw Janus coming from a mile away, we connected, and we prevailed. In workplace after workplace across L.A. County, workers spoke to each other about what they had to gain and what they had to lose. They chose to earn higher wages, to protect their benefits and to keep their workplaces safer. Most importantly, they chose to organize.”
In the months before Janus, we embarked upon a strategy of doubling down on organizing across public and private sector unions. Many member unions had already begun such work when the Friedrichs case was before the Supreme Court in 2016.
The LA Fed’s Organizing Institute recruited and trained union members to organize their own workplaces and work in solidarity to organize others. Private sector unions joined public sector organizing campaigns and vice versa. Organizers teamed up to sign membership cards with non-members and to recommit existing members, using every card signing as an opportunity to talk to members about their workplace concerns and involve them in their union whether they had been at their jobs for a month or a decade.
Many public sector unions report that by focusing on organizing, they emerged from the threat of Janus with a higher and more engaged membership than ever before.
“Teamsters Local 2010 did not wait to react to the Janus decision.” said Catherine Cobb, President of Teamsters Local 2010. “We worked tirelessly and strategically to organize our members to action, making sure we maintained the integrity of our membership. We were well-aware of the potential for Janus to decimate our ranks, but we mounted a defense by effectively communicating and organizing across the public sector, reminding members of all the hard-fought benefits we have acquired through standing together in our Union. As a result of those efforts, we have maintained nearly 80 percent of our members and our collective voices could not be silenced as we stood together as a unified, working-class front.”
“We are very fortunate and blessed that we did not lose membership but gained members,” said Ana Meni, City of Carson employee and President of AFSCME Local 809. “With every new employee that was hired on, we have maintained 100% union membership. We are also solidifying the support of our existing membership which is why we have 100% new membership cards for our previous existing members. This is not about just retaining our membership, but also propelling our union to the next phase.”
In the coming days, we will be highlighting stories from our public sector unions. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagramto see it all. Have any Janus stories of your own, email us at [email protected].