California Educator

December / January 2017

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U N I O N S S U C H A S CTA use their col- lective voice to advocate for policies that benefit all working people — like increases to the minimum wage, afford- able health care and great public schools. It's pretty simple, really : When union membership increases, living conditions of w orking p eople and th eir families improve. e same is true of the reverse. T h e d e c li n e of u n i o n i sm o v e r t h e past 50 years has been a major driver of income inequality. The U.S. Supreme C o u r t 's e x p e c t e d d e c i s i o n i n t h e coming months in J a n u s v. A F S C M E ( A m e r i c a n F e d - e r a t i o n o f S t a t e , County and Munic- i p a l E m p l o y e e s ) could further accel- erate the country 's e c onomic di sp ar - i t i e s , a n d f u r t h e r r i g t h e e c o n o m y a g a i n s t w o r k i n g people and the mid- dle class by striking at th e fre edom of w orkin g p e opl e to c om e togeth er in strong unions. In fact, as form er U.S. Secretar y of L a b o r R o b e r t R e i c h p o i n t s o u t , t h e decline of America's middle class mirrors almost exactly the decline of American l ab or union m emb ership, w hich has weakened from more than a third of all private-sector workers in the 1950s to less than 7 percent today. As a result, the bargaining power of average workers is pretty much nonexistent. (Public-sector union membership was 10 percent in the 1940s, peaked at 39 percent in 1994, and is currently 34 percent.) Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve's Sur- vey of Consumer Finance finds roughly 38 percent of America's wealth is now controlled by the top 1 percent of earners. "A decision in Ja nu s to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights in the workplace moves us further in the wrong direction," says CTA Presi- dent Eric Heins. In the Janus case, to be argued before th e hi g h c our t in early 2018, Il linoi s child-support worker Mark Janus con- tends that his free speech rights have been violated because he must pay agency fees to a union that, among other things, negotiates wage contracts and working conditions on his behalf. In 2016, the Court affirmed the constitutionality of current law regard- ing fair share fees in a nearly identical case — Fri ed ri ch s v. CTA — in a four- four decision. If the Court rules i n f a v o r o f Ja n u s and against public- sector unions, says news and investiga- tive reporting outlet C a p i t a l & M a i n , right-to-work forces will have fulfilled a cherished goal: to weaken the nation's public employee unions. Heins agrees. "eir goal is no secret: They want to use the Supreme Court to take away the freedom of working people to join in strong unions. Why? Because " They want to use the Supreme Court to take away the freedom of working people to join in strong unions. Why? Because unions give us power to speak up for our students, families and communities." — CTA PRESIDENT ERIC HEINS The Case for Unions Why our collective voice matters unions give us power to speak up for our students, families and communities." An Opportunity to Act But Heins says Janu s also presents an opportunity for CTA and its chapters to fully engage educators in CTA's purpose and mission. No other organization exists to protect California's children the way CTA does — in the classroom and beyond, says Heins. By reaffirming and communicating these shared values, CTA can continue to be a strong, effective advocate for students. CTA can also continue to advocate for educators and working people, including women and communities of color who have been systematically disadvantaged due to discrimination and prejudice. Heins says that taking action now is critical to communicate and demonstrate support for all working people as well as public education and our students. Spe- cifically, we need to: • Speak up to tell colleagues and fellow Americans what Janus is really about and the threat it poses to our families, public services and communities. • Make clear our positions on social media, op-eds and other platforms. • Remain steadfast and committed to the work of CTA and other unions, because it will continue. "For 154 years, CTA has been standing up for working people, our students and the communities we serve," Heins says. "No court case will stop our determina- tion and advocacy for our students and our profession." For detailed information about Janus, its impact and ways to take action, see And to see all that CTA has done for students and educators for the past 154 years, see Number of legal challenges to fair share fees besides Janus currently being litigated in courts across the country. 15+ 47 D E C E M B E R 2 017 / J A N U A R Y 2 018 J A N U S V . A F S C M E A

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