Labor Leaders react to Janus ruling

International, state and regional union leaders offered reactions to the predictable outcome of the Supreme Court case, Janus v. AFSCME. The ruling essentially granted so-called “Right to Work” in public-sector unions throughout the country.

Lonnie Stephenson, International President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said the ruling was an attack on working people.

“This is an all-out attack on the basic freedom of working people to come together to better their lives and their communities,” said Stephenson. It is “not just an attack on public-sector workers, it is an attack on every single American who works for a living, and it is only the first step in an effort to repeal every right won by working people in this country.”

In a prepared statement, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the Janus ruling was politically motivated. He said it is a “political stain on what is intended to be the most honorable, independent body in the world.”

Terry O’Sullivan, President of Laborers’ International Union of North America  was not happy about the Janus ruling, but remains optimistic.

“Despite the cynical efforts of the anti-worker groups financing Janus, union membership has always and will always strengthen the middle class and help build our nation’s prosperity,” said O’Sullivan.

Rob Dorans, legal counsel for the Affiliated Construction Trades (ACT) Ohio, said the Janus decision does not have a direct impact on the Building Trades, but warns the case has the ability to affect the strength of the labor movement, which of course, includes the Building Trades.

For some labor leaders, this ruling should serve as a wake-up call to union members about the importance of voting in every election.

“We emphasize to all workers that all elections have consequences and anti-union backers and their legislative cheerleaders can hinder the progress that we have made over the past century in one fell swoop,” said Ken Rigmaiden, General President of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.

General President Joseph Sellers Jr. told SMART Transportation Division members at a regional meeting the Janus ruling means the union must increase efforts to educate their members on the candidates and the issues.

“We have a midterm election coming up, and we can change that paradigm, but it’s not going to happen by itself. It’s not going to happen without our hard work,” said Sellers Jr.

“We need to be laser-focused as we fight back and take back one or possibly two branches of this government,” he said.

Similarly, Dave Wondolowski, Executive Secretary of the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council, encouraged union members to vote in the November midterm elections.

“We are continuing to see our rights stripped away by the far right,” said Wondolowski, adding that the ruling makes Ohio’s gubernatorial race even more important that all members need to make informed decisions at the polls.

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