“Our Commitment to Stand Together”

Sacramento Bee condemns attempt to silence the voice of working people

As a case backed by billionaires will soon be heard by the Supreme Court of the US, working people are joined by the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board in denouncing the insidious attempt to silence our voices and weaken the middle class. The case- Janus v AFSCME– claims to be about “freedom” but it’s really about a powerful anti-worker agenda that seeks to further stack the deck against everyday Americans to line the pockets of the wealthy elite.

The Sacramento Bee recently lambasted the case – and the oligarchs behind it — in an editorial: “A pending Supreme Court case threatens to silence workers’ voices” Unions and the Bee don’t always agree, but when it comes to the motivations behind Janus v AFSCME, the Bee hit the nail on the head:

Collectively, public employees do have clout in California, but not as much as the handful of billionaires who have gained undue influence since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision led to unlimited corporate campaign spending. And while Democrats control California politics, thanks partly to labor’s support, Republicans control most state legislatures and Congress, partly because of their heavy-handed use of the power to gerrymander district lines and weakened unions.

Janus v. AFSCME is about speech, but not the speech Janus’ lawyers describe. It’s about speech come election time. The oligarchs behind Janus’ lawsuit know they’d have a much easier time winning at the polls if only they could stifle the collective voice of organized labor. We hope Supreme Court justices see that, and maintain the law as it is.

Tellingly, one of the responses submitted to this editorial was authored by a high-priced attorney from the “Liberty Justice Center”- a misnomer if you’ve ever heard one. The LJC is a branch of a major conservative think-tank that is not-so-coincidentally funded by billionaires including the Koch Brothers. These powerful corporate elites could not care less about free speech. What they do care about is destroying unions so they can line their own pockets even further. Translation: these are the 1%ers who would benefit from making it harder for working people like nurses, teachers, and firefighters to stand together and negotiate good benefits and a decent wage.

We won’t waste any space quoting the 1%ers’ lawyer’s lies. We’d rather share the voice of a worker, telling it like it is about his union. Stuart Bennett works every day to help working people access their retirement and healthcare benefits in Sacramento Here’s his take on the attacks against working people and their unions:

As a senior pension actuary at CalPERS, I’m proud of my work in protecting and preserving the retirement and health care benefits for millions of Californians. Belonging to my union, Service Employees International Union Local 1000, means I work under a contract that protects my job when I fight for what’s right, even if it means blowing the whistle on bad policies or self-dealing bureaucrats.

Right now, our union is fighting to update decades-old job descriptions and salary structures for 8,000 information technology workers while the state suffers an exodus of skills and knowledge to private-sector jobs that pay much more.

When workers join to make change through a union, it too often also makes us the target of retaliation and union-busting. That’s what the Janus v. AFSCME case before the U.S. Supreme Court is about. It’s part of a decades long effort by a small group of people who want to take power for themselves by shattering unions, and stifling workers’ voices.

If the Supreme Court sides with these extremists, it will be overturning decades of legal precedent and dealing a blow to workers who fight to make public services better and save taxpayers’ dollars. But no matter how it rules, the court won’t succeed in changing the hearts and minds of people like me who devote their careers to serving the public day in and day out, or our commitment to stand together with our co-workers to amplify our voices and fight for the public good.

These wealthy CEOs have one goal in mind: They want to stop working people like Stuart from standing together in unions. Why? It’s pretty simple. The CEOs want to negotiate multi-million dollar pay for themselves but don’t want working people to have the freedom to negotiate a living wage. While these greedy billionaires have plenty of cash to throw at harming unions, working people still have each other. Unions still have power in numbers to counteract obscene greed. We will never stop organizing.