FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

It’s Not Too Late For Unions to Win the Friedrichs Case

by

shutterstock_223768012

If the future of labor unions is in the hands of the Supreme Court, the outlook is bleak. Labor’s denial was shattered when Judge Alito signaled that the Court had the votes to decimate union membership nationwide. This specific attack aims at public sector unions, the last high-density stronghold of the labor movement. It also foreshadows that private sector unions will be further attacked, into dust this time.

The Friedrichs decision now seems inevitable, but nothing is inevitable in politics. The decision will not be announced until June, and this 5 month delay allows unions time to fully express their power. A nationwide series of actions would certainly make the Supreme Court think twice. And the Supreme Court is especially politically sensitive.

A primary yet unofficial duty of the Supreme Court is to gauge and express public opinion, by codifying it into law. The biggest decisions in Supreme Court history were the expressions of mass movements, organized social demands that forced themselves onto the pages of the constitution and other landmark precedents that deeply affected millions of people.

The winning of civil rights, ending segregation, a woman’s right to choose, and laws that allow for the formation of strong labor unions were not granted by the Supreme Court, but foisted upon it through sustained collective action. The recent victory of the LGBTQ movement was won through years of militant organizing, not cheerfully bestowed by the conservative Supreme Court.

The landmark labor law that Friedrichs seeks to destroy was itself won through mass struggle. In 1977 the labor movement won a resounding victory in ‘‘Abood vs Detroit.” In discussing the Abood decision, the Supreme Court acknowledged — and continues to discuss — the “social peace” motive that was at the core of the Abood decision.

In 1977 “social peace” referred to the nationwide strike waves in the public sector that raged from the late 60s and 70s. The teacher unions were especially active, with a thousand strikes that involved hundreds of thousands of teachers.

The main demand of these public sector unions — strong unions — became legal rights recognized by the Supreme Court. This Abood victory was, like other social movement victories, a power forced onto the Supreme Court, not freely given.

Unions are under attack now because their prior strength appears zapped. Union membership has shrunk for decades and the power that won Abood seems vulnerable to a thrashing. Unions are backed into a corner, and they can either fight for dear life or be steamrolled while frozen in the headlights.

Unions have five months to fight back. The public’s mind is not made up. Social media can influence millions of minds in days. In fact, unions have already successfully transformed opinion about unions in recent years. The ongoing success of the “fight for 15” and high publicity actions like the Chicago Teachers Union strike have deeply resonated with the public.

According to the most recent Gallop poll, union support continues to rise, with a 5% increase in the last year. Now 66% of young people support unions. These are powerful statistics that can and must be transformed into action. Immediately.

If the Supreme Court sees millions of feet in the street, it would take notice. If the Court saw the coordinated occupation of state capitols across the country, à la Wisconsin 2011, the Court wouldn’t dare rule against unions, since the judges know better than to ignite social fires. Their sworn but unspoken duty is to put them out.

The Supreme Court is the arbitrator of social forces in the country, and for unions to get the best possible ruling they must apply the maximum of social force. Unions cannot temper their demands now, they must maximize them.

For example, the unions in California that filed a ballot measure for a $15 minimum wage are boldly riding the tsunami of the “fight for 15,” while an opposite example can be found in Washington state, where unions bargained against themselves by filing a ballot measure for $13.50 instead. Now is the time to shoot for the stars; there is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Millennials are dying for living wages, stable jobs, and the dignity that comes with the job protections that unions offer. They understand their situation would improve with a strong union. They are waiting to be organized and brought into the labor movement.

The South is likewise very pro-union, and like millennials most people in the South have no union. The basic math here favors unionization strongly, but only a strong and dedicated union movement can take advantage of this.

A nationwide coordinated day of action that promises something like ’50 Wisconsin’s in 50 States’ would certainly grab the Supreme Court’s attention, by the throat. Unions have the power to do something incredible like this, and desperate times demand desperate measures.

Union members must insist that their leaders work with other unions in organizing mass rallies while pouring resources into educating and mobilizing the public behind demands like $15, rent control, and the creation of public sector jobs through taxing the rich. Unions should also link up with the Black Lives Matter movement and demand that Democratic nominees for president become champions for a pro-union Friedrichs decision.

Unions cannot wish Friedrichs away. Not organizing powerfully and broadly will empower the Supreme Court to rule against us, striking a blow that can’t be simply shaken off. It won’t be a mild concussion either, but a coma; one that unions might not wake from for another 30 years.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
Nozomi Hayase
Trump and the Resurgence of Colonial Racism
Rev. William Alberts
The Normalizing of Authoritarianism in America
Frank Stricker
Getting Full Employment: the Fake Way and the Right Way 
Jamie Davidson
Red Terror: Anti-Corbynism and Double Standards
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles
Robert Jensen
Beyond Liberal Pieties: the Radical Challenge for Journalism
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His Crisis at Home
Angie Beeman
Gig Economy or Odd Jobs: What May Seem Trendy to Privileged City Dwellers and Suburbanites is as Old as Poverty
Colin Todhunter
The Public Or The Agrochemical Industry: Who Does The European Chemicals Agency Serve?
Jerrod A. Laber
Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy
Michael J. Sainato
Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It
Clancy Sigal
I’m a Trump Guy, So What?
Gerry Condon
In Defense of Tulsi Gabbard
Weekend Edition
May 19, 2017
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Getting Assange: the Untold Story
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Secret Sharer
Charles Pierson
Trump’s First Hundred Days of War Crimes
Paul Street
How Russia Became “Our Adversary” Again
Andrew Levine
Legitimation Crises
Mike Whitney
Seth Rich, Craig Murray and the Sinister Stewards of the National Security State 
Robert Hunziker
Early-Stage Antarctica Death Rattle Sparks NY Times Journalists Trip
Ken Levy
Why – How – Do They Still Love Trump?
Bruce E. Levine
“Hegemony How-To”: Rethinking Activism and Embracing Power
Robert Fisk
The Real Aim of Trump’s Trip to Saudi Arabia
Christiane Saliba
Slavery Now: Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia
Chris Gilbert
The Chávez Hypothesis: Vicissitudes of a Strategic Project
Howard Lisnoff
Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain
Brian Cloughley
Propaganda Feeds Fear and Loathing
Stephen Cooper
Is Alabama Hiding Evidence It Tortured Two of Its Citizens?
Sheldon Richman
The Real Danger From Trump is Ignored
Jay Moore
Learning from History: Resistance in the 1850s and Today
Matthew Stevenson
Down and Out in London and Paris With Macron, May, Trump and Gatsby
David Jaffee
Rolling Back Democracy
Fred Gardner
Irrefutable Proof: Russian Election Meddling Documented!
Jess Guh
Neurology Study Reveals What We Already Know: People of Color Get Worse Healthcare
Joseph Natoli
A Culture of Narcissism, a Politics of Personality
David Rosen
Politics and the Agent of Social Change
Ian Almond
The Secret Joke of Our Democracy: Britain’s Elephant in the Boardroom
Andre Vltchek
Revolution Vs Passivity
Erik Rydberg
Stop the Jordan Cove LNG Project #NoLNG
Vijay Prashad
When Israeli Fighter Jets Almost Killed Nehru
Christopher Brauchli
The Certified Trump
Chuck Collins
Congress Wants to Cut Your Health Care — And Billionaires’ Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail