Much has been, and will be, written about the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Whether one views the matter as weaponization of the First Amendment by an activist Court, as Justice Elena Kegan opined, or a correct affirmation of individual liberty, one thing appears certain: progressive causes will suffer and will need to find new strategies to move forward effectively.
The Janus decision, which struck down mandatory union fees for government employees who benefit from union negotiated benefits, will dramatically reduce the financial strength of some public-sector unions. Estimates of the reduction vary, and some state legislatures, including Massachusetts, are already searching for ways to lessen the impact on government union balance sheets. But many local unions, particularly in lower paying jobs, will certainly have employees stop paying union fees to experience a wage increase.
But the ties between the labor movement and a variety of groups supporting civil liberties cannot be overlooked.
The New York Times recently reported that tens of millions of dollars were donated from public sector unions to groups such as Mi Familia Vota, an advocacy group for the rights of Latino voters and immigrants. America Votes, an organization in 20 states which turns out voters and advocates for the environment and reproductive rights, was significantly funded by the four biggest public sector unions in 2016.
It will be interesting to see how these groups supporting civil liberties will continue to carry on their cause and search elsewhere for funding. Perhaps foundations and wealthy individuals will fill in the inevitable gap, or a broader awareness and appreciation of these efforts may awaken concerned citizens to step up. One thing is certain, the Janus case provided the political right in this country with not only an impressive victory over public sector unions, but also against many causes around civil liberties equally anathema to the political right.