WNPR

Connecticut Labor Leaders Vow To Persist After Supreme Court Decision

Jun 28, 2018

Connecticut union organizers say they’ll persevere in the face of a stinging defeat at the Supreme Court.

The justices ruled 5-4 that public sector workers do not have to pay union dues, even if they benefit from bargaining undertaken for them by a union.

Shellye Davis is a para-educator in the Hartford Public Schools and the president of the Greater Hartford Labor Coalition.

She told a rally Wednesday that unions will continue to make the case for membership.

"We’ve been organizing to build the strength to protect our rights and our freedoms, no matter how this lawsuit was decided," Davis said. "Our message has been clear, we are not, and I said we are not, going to back down to any court decision. Even one from the highest court of the land."

The plaintiff in the case, Mark Janus, successfully challenged a requirement that employees pay at least partial dues to their union. Employees had previously been able opt out of dues that were used for lobbying, but they still had to contribute to cover the cost of labor negotiations. Wednesday's ruling said that these negotiations were inherently political, and violated Janus' First Amendment righta.

Taffy Womack works as an administrative assistant for the state of Connecticut, and is the president of AFSCME Local 704. She said African Americans and Latinos have been able to boost their earnings through  union membership.

"Union jobs have historically been a path to the middle class for people of color," she said. "I’m here to tell you, the forces behind Janus are not going to sink us. Not today, not tomorrow, not next year, not ever."

The implications of the ruling could be far reaching in Connecticut, where public sector contracts rely on the collective bargaining rights of unions.