Janus v. AFSCME was a blow to the middle class, but the fight for justice carries on

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Janus v. AFSCME was a blow to the middle class, but the fight for justice carries on

The trade union movement in the United States built the middle class as we know it. Banding together to demand their rights, workers secured the 40-hour work week, a living wage, workplace safety protections, employer-provided healthcare, paid vacations, pensions, the end to child labor and so much more.

It wasn’t an easy fight. Long before the Wagner Act guaranteed workers the right to collectively bargain, courts served almost exclusively to bust unions and break strikes at the bidding of corporations. Thousands of workers died in the struggle to improve wages and working conditions across the United States.

But workers kept fighting, because they knew the justice of their cause. They, like us today, believe that workers shouldn’t have to choose between healthcare or food, or housing or clothes. They knew that as individuals, they couldn’t take on the corporate special interests by themselves. But together, in solidarity, they could be a potent force.

Solidarity. That’s what the labor movement is about. But it’s also what our democracy is about. Government exists to do the things together that individuals could never accomplish on our own.

When the Taft-Hartley Act was passed in 1947 over President Truman’s veto, labor leaders feared the worst. The law allowed the so-called “right-to-work” laws that depress wages across the country. We are still dealing with its effects. The percentage of workers in a labor union has declined over the past several decades, and with it wages have stagnated. But the labor movement carries on. Labor unions are not a relic of the past. They are, and will continue to be, the most important institution in our society for ensuring economic and social justice.

When workers band together, they are powerful. Corporate special interests and right-wing politicians want you to believe that solidarity doesn’t matter. They want you to believe that poverty is an individual moral failing and not a deliberate result of systemic inequality.

Court injunctions and strikebreakers couldn’t keep workers from demanding their rights. Anti-union laws across this country couldn’t keep workers from demanding their rights. And Janus v. AFSCME won’t keep workers from demanding their rights either.

Workers have been kicked down before, but they always get back up again. Together, we will fight for our rights. Together, we will take on the special interests that bring cases like Janus to the Supreme Court. And together, we will rebuild the labor movement that built this country.

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