Silicon Valley workers rallied on Monday in support of organized labor as a divided U.S. Supreme Court sparred over a case that threatens to undermine the financial footing of public sector unions.
The SEIU Local 521 gathered outside the Santa Clara County Government Center as part of a nationwide show of solidarity for the labor movement as justices heard arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, a challenge to an Illinois law that allows unions to collect fees from non-members.
“The Janus case is an attack on working families that will allow employers to lower wages and take bigger profits,” South Bay Labor Council Executive Officer Ben Field declared ahead of the #WeRise rally. “We need more good union jobs if we want to rebuild the middle class. The Janus case threatens to be a big step in the wrong direction.”
— SEIU Local 521 (@SEIU521) February 26, 2018
The plaintiff, an Illinois state workers named Mark Janus, argues that he has a First Amendment right to opt out of paying a union that bargains on his behalf. Experts say the case could strike a mortal blow to public employee unions and, by extension, Democratic Party coffers.
The court split 4-4 when it considered the issue in 2016 after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court last spring, and has yet to weigh in on the matter. A decision in the case is expected no later than June.
Derecka Mehrens, head of Silicon Valley’s pro-labor Working Partnerships USA, said public employees need stronger representation now more than ever.
“Regardless of the outcome of this case, Working Partnerships will stand with working people and their unions,” she said in a press release on Monday. “Instead of making it more difficult to join together, we as a nation should be making it easier for people to use their power in numbers. We urge elected leaders to take action to create more good, union jobs that our communities need.”
Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese echoed her sentiment.
“I want the working people of Santa Clara County to know that I am against this attempt today to use the highest court in the land to further rig the rules of the economy,” he said in a prepared statement on Monday. “County workers provide services to the most vulnerable in our community. Instead of trying to make it more difficult for working people to use their power in numbers, we should be making it easier to join together in unions, so that they can continue their work of improving the lives of county residents.”