Free speech used to be simple. You could tell people what you thought without getting beheaded in the Tower of London. It was not achieved without a struggle. The Founders accordingly put it into the First Amendment.
Joining a labor union also used to be simple. It too was not achieved without a struggle. Eventually, under President Eisenhower, Republicans supported unions’ rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Union membership grew steadily. As a result, America created the greatest middle class the world has ever seen. Decent wages did not magically fall out of the sky. Unions negotiated them.
But the middle class is vanishing fast. How so? As Deep Throat said, “Follow the money.” Organized capital struck back after 1975. Even though suppliers of labor vastly outnumber suppliers of capital, workers lost the battle. This was due to the increasing cost of elections, the brilliance of Republicans’ emotional messaging, their relentless attacks on workers, and the ineffectiveness of Democrats.
Democrats learned the wrong lessons from the defeat of their pro-union legislation in 1977. Starting around 1980, Democrats began to chase big money. They placed fundraising before messaging. But as they say on Madison Avenue, “It doesn’t matter how brilliant your marketing campaign is if the dogs won’t eat the dog food.”
Fewer workers bought the Democrats’ messaging. Without enough Democrats elected, unions were weakened. Without unions, workers can be picked off one by one. But with unions, workers earn more than those on their own. For men in the private sector, without degrees, this is around $2,700 per year (Economic Policy Institute).
With this benefit there comes a burden. Union negotiators cannot work for free. Union members must pay union dues. But can you get the benefit of higher wages without the burden of union dues?
This raises the Latin maxim qui approbat non reprobat (one who approbates cannot reprobate). Translation: Thou shalt not blow hot and cold. You do not get it both ways. If you take the benefit, you must take the burden. No mooching. Fair dinkum?
The Romans thought so. So did the judges developing England’s common law. This is the basis of American law today. Obviously, this maxim would have been uppermost in the minds of the Supreme Court justices when a moocher wanted it both ways.
Ha ha, just kidding. This ghastly court tossed aside centuries of elementary justice — and even their own previous decisions — in order to stick it to America’s workers. Simply put, it has a Republican majority that can do as it pleases because not enough Democrats get out and vote.
Mark Janus wanted it both ways. He wanted high wages without paying union dues. His case got to the Supreme Court as Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME, his union). The court found for Janus on the grounds that paying union dues restricted his free speech rights under the First Amendment.
This is revved-up rubbish on roller skates. How was Janus’ right to free speech restricted? Did his union put duct tape over his mouth? Where did a constitutional “moochers’ charter” suddenly come from? Union members now get it both ways unless they agree to stop mooching and pay dues. Obviously, fewer members will do this, thus weakening unions financially.
Following the court’s “logic,” try calling the Chamber of Commerce. Ask to join, but refuse to pay its dues on the grounds that your free speech rights will be restricted. Best of luck.
Lee Saunders, AFSCME president, called the ruling an “unprecedented and nefarious political attack, designed to further rig the rules against working people.” Conservatives are already preparing a drive to persuade public sector union members to stop paying dues.
The California Democratic Party’s Eric Bauman said: “For the past 35 years, the Union movement has been under a sustained assault by Republicans at every level. And as the number of unionized workers has fallen, so have our wages. So have our benefits. So has our standard of living. Workers today work longer hours for less pay than at any point since before the New Deal.”
Inequality today is even worse than during the Gilded Age. This is why I attended a demonstration at the Ventura Government Center recently. It was organized by unions, including the Service Employees International Union. I stood next to my fine Democratic colleague Danny Carrillo, its Tri-Counties Regional Director.
We close with good news. We have a new breed of Democrat today. Katie Hill will take on that odious Trump toady, Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, in the 25th Congressional District and knock him out. She is a strong supporter of your right to a decent wage.
Democrats! Less venting and more voting! Get out and vote!