California Forum

Unions are strong in California. This case is about to put that unity to the test

Demonstrators rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, during arguments in ‘Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association’, which previewed ‘Janus v. AFSCME,’ the upcoming 2018 Supreme Court attack on public employee union rights. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Demonstrators rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, during arguments in ‘Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association’, which previewed ‘Janus v. AFSCME,’ the upcoming 2018 Supreme Court attack on public employee union rights. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) AP

In SEIU Local 1000, we are proud to live in a state that supports working families. California was the first state to lift our minimum wage floor to $15 an hour. We were the first to help address the nation’s retirement crisis by creating the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings program. We’re also trailblazers seeing the value in protecting the health of working people through providing paid sick days and family leave.

This Labor Day, though, as we celebrate our 95,000 members across California – and the more than $8 billion they contribute to the economy annually – we are having a different kind of conversation. Over the next year, working people in California will face an important choice.

We know the devastating impact when working people fall victim to these campaigns. In the 28 right-to-work states across the country, workers make on average $6,109 less per year.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide a case that could overturn 40 years of precedent that has protected workers’ rights and ensured unions can negotiate and represent their members. Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 challenges current law that says unions are required to negotiate and represent workers, even if they are not union members. Since all workers benefit from the union’s work, workers chip in a “fair share fee” toward the cost of negotiating the contract and winning improvements.

This latest challenge is the result of a calculated political effort, fronted by a single public sector worker, Mark Janus, but funded and organized by the National Right to Work Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center. It’s a multipronged strategy funded by billionaires and large corporations to weaken unions, suppress wages for working people, and to eventually privatize public services and move workers to low wage jobs.

We know the devastating impact when working people fall victim to these campaigns. In the 28 right-to-work states across the country, workers make on average $6,109 less per year.

In Wisconsin, one of the most recent right-to-work states, workers have lost the right to negotiate over benefits, retirement and working conditions. After the change in 2010, workers experienced an immediate 24 percent reduction to their benefits and have received only a 2 percent salary increase in the last seven years.

This Labor Day, we choose to stand together with 2 million SEIU members, community leaders and allies across the country and to fight back against those who have rigged the system against workers. We choose to fight against attacks on our union, our families, our communities and our future.

We choose to stand together by committing to stay with our union no matter what attacks come our way, because without a union, the consequences are real for working people, our state and our country.

Yvonne R. Walker is president of SEIU Local 1000. She can be contacted at ywalker@seiu1000.org.

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