HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — SMART Transportation Division General Counsel Kevin Brodar minced no words Tuesday, Aug. 7, when describing the 5-4 Janus v. AFSCME decision written by United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito that was released this summer.
“His hate and loathing — and that’s being kind — for unions and working people drips from every page of this opinion, if that’s what you want to call it — an opinion,” Brodar said. “It’s less an opinion but more a right-wing manifesto as to how to eliminate unions.”
The 45-page Janus ruling taking away the ability of unions in the public sector to collect agency fees from “free-riders” has been an important topic at SMART TD’s Hollywood, Fla., regional meeting. In Monday’s combined opening session with Sheet Metal and TD sides in attendance, SMART General President Joseph Sellers Jr., General Secretary-Treasurer Rich McClees and TD President John Previsich all mentioned the precedent-destroying case.
Brodar, during the opening session of the second day, went into even more detail on the ruling.
“What Justice Alito tries to sell here is the two-century-old idea that unionism is just an excuse for legalized extortion,” Brodar said, holding up a printed copy of Alito’s opinion. “This case is an attack on working people. It’s an attack on all unions, not just public-sector unions. It’s an attack on this union.
“This is an attack on every one of you who goes out and does the hard work of defending the members, who goes out and does the hard work of standing against the tide of the carriers, who goes out and does the hard work of the long and tedious hours.”
Big-moneyed interests and industries have exacted a toll on workers throughout history – in injuries, blood and in some cases, human lives, Brodar said. In the early days of the labor movement, workers’ efforts to organize sometimes were met with armed responses intended to put down their resistance.
“No matter how many people were killed, however, the industrialists and the right-wingers and the conservatives and the business interests could not kill the idea of unions,” Brodar said. “They could not kill the cause because the cause is a righteous cause … You are the heirs to that fight.”
Those same forces that tried to suppress unions in the past exist today in the form of union foes such as Alito, the Koch brothers, the Federalist Society and other billionaire backers, Brodar said. This time, those enemies of labor are playing a long game with the Janus ruling being one step in their attempts to kill unions.
“Their new tactic is death from strangulation. They hope to dry up the union funds until the unions can no longer function and they just disappear and go away,” Brodar said.
The Janus decision “is essentially a green light for people to freeload” from public-sector unions, he said, and private sector unions likely will be next to be targeted.
“Look at the people sitting next to you. This affects your brothers and sisters in this room, in this union today, tomorrow,” Brodar said. “If you don’t think they are coming for the private sector, wake up and smell the coffee. That’s the next thing that is going to happen.”
Members will have to make a choice to fight back to preserve that which gives them a middle-class lifestyle, Brodar said. They can do that by educating their fellow members, their friends, neighbors and anyone else they can about what these anti-union forces are trying to accomplish through stacking the courts, trying to get right-to-work-for-less laws and other means.
“It’s up to us to respond. We can’t sit back, because if we do, we will disappear,” Brodar said. “We need to go out and educate every member every day, every way.”