Janus v ASFCME, a valid case to argue - Copyright ASFCME 2018

The Guardian has a quite breathless report – breathless with outrage – on how those appalling right wingers are going after the progressives’ major source of money in the US, public sector unions. That, in politics, you go after your opponent’s major source of funding seems to be anathema. Although of course The Guardian would be all in favour of overturning Citizens United, which allowed progressives’ opponents to spend their own money on politics.

What’s so delightful about this is that it’s a straight propaganda piece – whatever we might say about The Guardian they have historically been rather better than this:

Rightwing activists are launching a nationwide drive to persuade public-sector trade union members to tear up their membership cards and stop paying dues, posing a direct threat to the progressive movement in America.

Documents obtained by the Guardian reveal that a network of radical conservative thinktanks spanning all 50 states is planning direct marketing campaigns targeted personally at union members to encourage them to quit. The secret push, the group hopes, could cost unions up to a fifth of their 7 million members, lead to the loss of millions of dollars in income and undermine a cornerstone of US progressive politics.

“Well run opt-out campaigns can cause public-sector unions to experience 5 to 20% declines in membership, costing hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in dues money. This can affect the resources and attention available for union leaders to devote to political action campaigns,” the internal documents say.

Quite why sending someone a letter asking whether their union dues are worth it is such a threat is difficult to divine. For undoubtedly the Guardian would say that union membership is an absolute bargain, cheap at twice the price, therefore no one will ever leave. Although if jus’ askin’ leads to a 20% decline then perhaps not all union members quite agree.

We might also think a little on the idea that declining union membership undercuts progressive causes. So, the unions aren’t just doing union type things for their members then, but they’re funding the wider progressive causes with their money then, are they?

But this is the bit that really tickles:

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the Guardian documents revealed the extent of secret planning by rightwing groups in advance of the supreme court’s Janus ruling. “These documents make clear that Janus v AFSCME is not a case brought by individuals trying to have a voice, it’s a case brought by wealthy forces to eliminate worker voice and power.”

She added that rightwing billionaires such as the Kochs “know working families only have power through their unity as a union, and they will stop at nothing to destroy that. But we have seen unprecedented support for our unions and the opportunities they enable for a better life – when the Janus decision day comes, we will stand united, ready to act and fight back against the forces that want to silence workers.”

Public sector unions are fighting against the government, their employer. Progressives insist that ever more should be done by that government – without, note, protection for anyone else other than public sector workers from that government. So, if government’s so great why do the workers need protection from it? And if they do need protection then why agitate for it to be doing ever more without said protection?

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Hector Drummond

>whatever we might say about The Guardian they have historically been rather better than this:

That’s a very long memory you have, Tim.


No, Randi, “Janus” of Janus v. AFSCME is not a “radical…rightwing activist” but an actual worker who believes he is not getting value for his union dues, and that his Freedom of Speech means he cannot be compelled (by government enforcing a closed shop) to pay for speech he does not agree with.

PS — Why do we support their use of the “progressive” euphemism? Coerced unionism is neither “progress” nor pro-worker, any more than Sovietism was.


As a side note, perhaps more relevant to France than the USA (because in France there are more publicly-owned ‘corporations’ than in the USA), it would be a Good Thing for democracy if unions in publicly-owned corporations were forbidden absolutely to strike, because they in doing so are going against the professed will of the People, who have put in place the funding and management enjoyed by said corporations. I’m hoping Macron makes the leap, just for the sheer pleasure of watching the results. And while we’re at it, yes you others do have ‘the right to strike’, but when… Read more »

Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole

French friends tell me that the rail strikes are gradually running out of steam. (sorry!)


Progressives do this all the time by targeting shareholders of businesses or calling for boycotts of companies who displease them by advertising in the Daily Mail.


If the unions want more support then they should concentrate on their members and none of the left wing activism. I would rather drive a longer distance than shop at a shop that supports Chavez, even though joining a union could be good for me, I won’t on moral grounds.