That morning, the court heard oral arguments in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The case, which is being backed by some CEOs and corporations, is part of an attack plan designed to defund and weaken unions. If the corporations win, they will force “right-to-work” rules on all public sector employees. Right-to-work is a proven to lower wages for workers.
Union members at the We Rise rally, many decked out in union garb, understand how important having a strong, collective voice is for both their future and for future generations of workers. There is no use denying the facts, and the facts are that union workers enjoy higher wages, safer working conditions, better benefits, and stronger protections from discrim ination for marginalized populations, like women, minorities, and the LGBTQ community.
“We know that women, and disproportionately women of color, have a ton to lose in this fight, because we know that it’s unions, and public sector unions in particular, that are the engines of our economic security, our equality, and our dignity,” Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, said at the rally. “Women who are represented by unions don’t just get higher pay, they get pay that is more equitable, for union members the pay gap shrinks.”
And it’s not just workers themselves who benefit from unions. Unions use their voice to push for positive change in their communities, nationally, and even internationally. Unions helped push for the world’s first universal climate accord, the Paris Agreement. At a local level, unions have used their bargaining rights strengthen their communities. For example, in Philadelphia a teacher’s union contract had a provision to test the school water system for lead. It also prevented class-size increases for students and ensured that every school covered under the contract had at least one school nurse and counselor.
“Because we are united in our union, we have the power in numbers to win victories for working people,” Peter MacKinnon, President of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 509, said during the rally. “American workers need unions for their financial stability, but not only for the people who are in unions but for the communities that we serve. Unions are doing more than just stuff at the worksite, we come together for our communities and when unions are strong our communities are strong.”
Arguments in the Janus case may be over, but you can be sure that the fight for workers’ rights will not end.