Local labor and politicians react to Janus decision with determination

George Nee

“The history of the AFL-CIO demonstrates that we have fought through far more adversity than on Supreme Court decision,” said Rhode Island AFL-CIO President George Nee. “The AFL-CIO is an organization of unions and by its very nature we depend on cooperation and collective action. This court decision presents a challenge in the short term, but in the long term we will draw on our successful history of labor organizing to grow even stronger.”

Nee was speaking to the media and representatives from nearly a dozen unions about the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in the Janus v American Federation of County, State Municipal Employees, Council 31. Representatives from National Education Association Rhode Island (NEARI), Rhode Island Federation of Teachers & Health Professionals (RIFTHP), United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP), American Federation of State County Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA!), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), American Association of University Professors (AAUP), Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Rhode Island Jobs With Justice (JWJ), Graduate Assistants United and National Education Association Rhode Island (NEARI) were in attendance.

Nee’s was not the only reaction to the decision:

“The labor movement built Rhode Island’s middle class,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo. “This decision is part of a larger effort to weaken labor and diminish the middle class. With ever-growing income inequality and ideologically driven efforts in Washington to undermine working families, the labor movement is more important now than any other time in recent memory. As long as I am Governor, Rhode Island will continue to stand up for the middle class. My team will review this ruling and if any changes are required, we’ll make them at the bargaining table with our unions.”



“The American labor movement helped build the strong middle class of our country. Unions are the reason working people have weekends off, safe working conditions, good wages, and employer-provided health insurance. Unions ended child labor and led the fight for family and medical leave. Today, union workers make, on average, 27 percent more than their non-union counterparts. If we want a strong and growing middle class, we need strong unions,” said United States Representative David Cicilline. “That’s why today’s Supreme Court decision is so devastating. This decision is the latest in a long line of corporate-funded attacks on working people. Wall Street, the big banks, and big business have spent decades trying to undermine unions by denying working people the freedom to organize and bargain collectively. They’ve done everything they can to make it harder for working men and women to negotiate for decent pay and fair working conditions.

“Today, using a stolen Supreme Court seat as the deciding vote, corporate special interests succeeded in overturning four decades of legal precedent that protect the rights of working people,” continued Cicilline. “This decision is an unprecedented attack on 17.3 million public employees in Rhode Island and across America. Teachers, law enforcement, firefighters, and public works employees are going to find it harder than ever to get ahead.

“This is wrong. If you work hard, and play by the rules, you should be able to provide for your family, buy a home, save for retirement, and provide your kids with a better life than you’ve had. In this country, we should always honor hard work with a decent wage. The American Dream was meant for all of us, not just the wealthy few. I’m going to continue fighting for a country that’s consistent with those values.”


“Bit by bit, this Trump Administration is chipping away at our democracy. The checks-and-balances of our co-equal branches of government have given way to far-right leaning decisions – in Congress, in the White House and certainly, now, in this Supreme Court,” said T Kevin Olasanoye, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Democratic Party. “Our unions helped build America while protecting the Americans with safe working conditions, fair wages, and the hope for a better life. This reckless decision by the United States Supreme Court is one more way our people will suffer, while this president continues to reward wealthy corporations and his Republican buddies.”


“Good jobs, protections in the workplace, a voice at the table – these rights had to be fought for,” said Rhode Island State Representative Aaron Regunberg (Democrat, District 4, Providence), who is also running for Lieutenant Governor. “The Supreme Court’s decision on Janus today is a blow to working Americans and the prosperity of our country. Corporate interests have rigged the economy in their favor and they’re working every day to take more and more. It’s never been more important for us to come together and fight back.”


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1 Comment

  1. The union movement has long been declining, now the right wing is going for the kill, undermining any countervailing power to corporate rule their goal. Though there may be a few unintended consequences – some unions might become more militant to attract rank and file, there can be little doubt there will be a further decline, fewer members, fewer resources, and less labor presence, not just in the workplace, but in the halls of power.
    Once an active member of a public employee union, I believe to some extent the decline relates to a very top down style that little involved rank and file. We had little knowledge of where our dues went, little input into choosing union officers, little voice in union political decisions, little real communication, little frank acknowledgement of problems. As a result, increasingly members tuned out. I suspect, the first year of voluntary dues many will pay, but less and less each year unless new or existing leaderahip galvanizes interest.

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