Union leaders across the country and the East Bay anticipate the U.S Supreme Court will hand down a significant blow to the labor movement in the next few days. A ruling in favor of Janus vs. AFSCME would strip away the ability of unions from demanding mandatory dues from all of its members. The ruling, expected as early as Monday, may greatly reduce union membership and cost them million in dues.
But the labor movement, still potent in the East Bay, is rallying support within local government. On Wednesday, the A.C. Transit Board of Directors became the first East Bay government body to approve a resolution supporting labor in advance of the high court’s ruling.
“Janus is one part of larger attack on public employees,” said AC Transit Board President Elsa Ortiz. “This is a huge attack and what we wanted to say to our unions is, ‘We support you.'” The board approved the resolution Wednesday evening, 6-0, with Board Director Greg Harper abstaining.
Josie Camacho, executive secretary-treasurer of the Alameda Labor Council, voiced certainty that an adverse ruling for labor union is imminent, but equated the resolution to a preventative measure. “Public-sector employees need support in these challenging times,” she told the board. Expect similar resolutions in support of unions coming before other East Bay boards and city councils in coming weeks, she added.
While the discussion focused initially on supporting the transit agency’s union workforce, it also veered into demonization of President Donald Trump and overall Republican strategies to snuff out the labor movement.
Board Director Joe Wallace said without his father’s union paycheck, “I would not be sitting here.” For many minorities, a union job was the only avenue for gaining a fair wage, he added. Wallace then appeared to lay blame on Trump. “He will never get my vote, and nobody who supports him will ever get my vote.”
Board Director Chris Peeples later described the U.S. Supreme Court as an “offshoot of the Republican Party rather than being a legal entity.” He worries that AC Transit, long a union shop, may face challenges adapting to any new labor rules in the future. “If this stuff goes away, it makes our management a whole lot more difficult, I believe,” he said.
Harper, who abstained, was the only board director to voice any skepticism about the resolution, questioning why the item was up for discussion before any ruling by the court has been made. But Harper was also the only board director to see a glimmer of hope, believing the court may not overturn the 40-year-old labor rules.