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One Year Since Janus Decision, Senators Hirono, Stabenow, Whitehouse Release Report on Status of Workers’ Rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) released a new report detailing the impact on workers’ rights since the Supreme Court’s decision to weaken public-sector unions in the Janus v. AFSCME case, which was decided one year ago today. The report also examined the role of dark money campaigns to defund unions.

“The Supreme Court’s harmful Janus decision was the capstone on a campaign by conservative, right-wing forces in our country to harm our unions,” Senator Hirono said. “Their relentless, all-out assault on working people and the unions who represent them continues to threaten the livelihoods of public sector employees. This timely report highlights the crucial role unions play in lifting millions of Americans into the middle class – especially women and people of color. Passing the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act will ensure that every public employee has the right to organize, act concertedly, bargain collectively, and strengthen the voice of public employees in the workplace.”

“Unions helped create the middle class in Michigan and our country by fighting for fair wages and working conditions,” Senator Stabenow said. “The Janus v. AFSCME decision was an attack on working men and women. With so much now at stake, workers are standing up and fighting back.”

“Corporations and big Republican donor interests engineered a decades-long campaign to unravel the rights and basic protections of American workers through the courts. One result is the disgraceful 5-4 partisan decision in the Friedrichs/Janus saga,” Senator Whitehouse said. “It’s time to for Democrats to shine a light on the dark money forces out to weaken workers and enrich themselves, and to stand with American workers in the face of this secretly-funded onslaught.”

In their report, Senators Hirono, Stabenow, and Whitehouse found that Republicans have continued to push anti-worker legislation and strategies. Details of the report include:

  • Evidence of radical right-wing “dark money” groups funding anti-union legal cases that have made their way to the Supreme Court: The State Policy Network, a group of think tanks funded by dark money, has budgeted over $80 million to “defund and defang” public-sector unions. At least 70 legal cases across the country funded by dark-money organizations are attempting to weaken the voice of public-sector workers.
  • Campaigns to enact state laws that undermine the rights of workers: In statehouses across the country, dark money groups are pushing legislation to restrict the rights of public servants to have a voice in their workplaces. Twenty-eight states have enacted “Right-to-Work” laws, which seek to undermine the organizing ability of working people.

Despite consistent attacks on union workers’ rights to organize, act concertedly, and bargain collectively, the report also indicated that public sector employees and union members are fighting back.

  • Union membership is on the rise: The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the largest public-sector union in the country, added more than 27,000 dues-paying members and retirees over the last year. The National Education Association (NEA) has gained more than 217,000 new members since the Janus decision. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) added upwards of 100,000 new members in the face of the Janus decision.
  • Public support for unions is growing: According to a recent poll, union membership is increasing, and public support for unions is at a 15-year high.
  • Teachers are holding local governments accountable: In the last year, teachers in 15 states have gone on strikes and walkouts calling for major investments in public education. This includes major protests in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona.

On Thursday, Senator Hirono spoke on the floor of the Senate to reflect on the anniversary of the Janus decision. In her remarks, she denounced the all-out attack on working people and unions, and warned about the danger of partisan, ideological decisions from the Roberts Court’s conservative 5-4 majority.

Senator Hirono also called on the Senate to pass the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act of 2019, which would guarantee the right of public employees to organize, act concertedly, and bargain collectively in states that currently do not afford these basic protections. Senator Hirono, along with 35 of her Senate colleagues, introduced the legislation earlier this week.