Decision Won’t Stop Union Growth as Workers Organize to Give Voice to Shared Values
EDISON—The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of wealthy and corporate interests’ attempt to silence workers and their unions won’t stop them from working to build a better life for themselves, those they serve and their communities, according to AFT New Jersey President Donna M. Chiera.
“New Jersey’s working people know that the things they want—decent pay, quality healthcare, safe workplaces, fair treatment and professional voice—are what our union fights for,” said Chiera. She said she believes the decision ultimately will lead to more member activism and a stronger voice for workers. “This decision is a momentary triumph for the wealthy special interests who backed this lawsuit,” she said. “But the voices of working people will not go unheard. And unions, such as ours, remain the best way to make sure decision-makers—in our schools, colleges and universities, or in the halls of government—are listening.”
The Supreme Court’s decision in a case called Janus v. AFSCME invalidates state laws allowing labor unions to collect fair representation fees from everyone in a bargaining unit, including nonmembers, to pay the costs of bargaining and other representation the union provides.
Even though the decision overruled a precedent that had stood for more than 40 years, that outcome had been largely anticipated by labor leaders. “We are disappointed but not surprised by this result,” said Chiera. “Our members have followed this case and were well aware—since President Trump’s appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the court—that this would be an uphill battle in the Supreme Court. This ruling only confirmed that.”
Acknowledging the short-term challenges presented by the decision, Chiera said New Jersey locals are already taking steps to comply with the ruling and reaching out to members to talk about the value of strong worker organizations. “We have the capacity and the commitment of our members to meet these challenges,” she said. “Our fight for our shared interests and values continues. We’re not going anywhere. This is just a new chapter in our fight against those who viciously attack the rights of working people.
“Strong unions make strong communities,” she added. “Our members and the people they serve understand that.”
She said the union will continue to organize new members, as it has over the last 18 months as the Janus case made its way to the Supreme Court. In Janurary, adjunct faculty at Brookdale Community College joined the AFT. Princeton Graduate Students are organizing an AFT union on their campus.
AFT New Jersey represents 30,000 members in more than 50 locals and chapters including faculty and staff at all the state’s public four-year colleges and universities, half the community colleges, educators in five school districts and charter, private and religious schools, according to Chiera, a retired Perth Amboy teachers.
“This court got it wrong today,” she said. “But as we carry this fight forward—where our members work, in the communities they serve, and at the ballot box in November—we believe the court of public opinion will get this right.”
AFT New Jersey represents 30,000 education workers.