A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck a blow to public sector unions. But some union leaders say they’re hopeful the blowback may actually strengthen their organizations.
In nearly half of the states, including Connecticut, public sector workers who chose not to join their unions still had to pay mandatory union fees, which supported collective bargaining for everyone.
But the 5-4 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME says public sector unions can no longer collect mandatory fees from nonmembers, even though nonmembers will still benefit from collective bargaining by the unions. That, said Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers president, is infuriating to union members.
“What unions do is we try to solve problems,” Weingarten said, “negotiating manageable class sizes, negotiating safe staffing levels, negotiating wages and health benefits, and retirement benefits. And making sure that the services that get provided to communities are the best they can be because we are community.”
But that anger over what some, like Weingarten, see as the right wing’s efforts to defund and defang public sector unions may prove useful.
“The union membership right now, as of our May membership numbers, is 1,755,000 people,” Weingarten said. “The largest number ever.”
Weingarten, who was joined by Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and local labor leaders in New Haven, said union members across the country have been recommitting.
David Cicarella, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers, said “union cards literally flooded” into their office.