The Labor Movement: Janus v. AFSCME and the Impact on Unions and Electoral Politics

October 5, 2017

The United States Supreme Court recently agreed to hear Janus v. AFSCME, again bringing a critical legal issue for the labor movement before the court that could have a sweeping impact on unions and electoral politics. The key legal question in the case centers on enrollment in the public sector union, whether a worker can be signed up for a union without formally indicating consent. With President Trump’s appointment of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, observers believe the court will rule 5-4 against labor’s position in the matter. The court ruled 4-4 on a similar case last session after the passing of Justice Scalia. The decision could be extremely disruptive for unions in states across the U.S., and has the potential to reduce membership in unions across the country.

While the issue has been at the center of legislative struggles in states across the country, this blanket policy change is a significant threat. It is more important than ever for labor unions of all sizes to communicate to their members, not just that this decision is wrong, but reinforcing to members how their union fights for them and how the labor movement has improved conditions for workers of all kinds. Local unions will have to leverage and expand their ability to efficiently communicate and interact with their membership, utilizing the powerful and precise reach of social media and digital capabilities, while also executing the in-person member to member communication that has served as the backbone for labor communications for generations.

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