Later this month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, the case that will almost surely result in the decimation of public sector union membership in America. It will be an unbridled catastrophe for working people. Which makes it all the propaganda being distributed about the case all the more bizarre. Up is down!
Briefly, this case is a retread of the 2016 Friedrichs case—one which the Supreme Court deadlocked on only because of Antonin Scalia’s death. The case involves a union member’s ability not to pay fees to a union that cover the cost of its activities on his behalf, even though he is covered by a union contract. The right frames this as a free speech issue, though union advocates point out that if (when) the Janus ruling comes down against unions, it will enable any public employee who wants to to become a “free rider” who receives all the benefits of a union without paying for them. The result will be a huge drop in formal union membership in the public sector, and a drop in both the revenues that sustain unions and their ability to maintain power in the workplace. It will be very, very bad for organized labor in America, and it is almost sure to happen soon.
Of course, the Koch brothers and their allies are leaving nothing to chance. The State Policy Network, an umbrella group of right wing organizations that has groomed a who’s who of future Republican leaders ranging from Karl Rove to Mitch McConnell, is funding a rally for people to come cheer on the gutting of labor’s last stronghold in this country. The tagline, of course: “STAND WITH WORKERS.”
Stand with workers, so that when they collapse from hunger due to poverty wages, you’ll be right there to pick the pockets of their corpse.
And here, via an email to supporters, are the talking points being distributed by the State Policy Network regarding this case—so when you see someone wearing a “Stand With Workers” hat on Fox News talking derisively about “Out of touch” “Big Labor” while carefully trying not to demonize all unions because polling indicates that is not resonant, know that that message is being brought to you by the best right wing political influence firms that money can buy.
The talking points:
Position AFSCME as for:
- Coercion, force, control
- Using their political connections and clout to trap workers in a system to which they do not want to belong
- Forced dues, rigged system
- Autocratic, controlling, undemocratic
- Self-interested, concerned with what’s best for union executives and not necessarily members
- Out of touch with rank-and-file workers
- Unaware and unappreciative of the diverse workforce in the public sector, and the unique desires and needs of individual workers
- Seeking to maintain the status quo that benefits a privileged political class
- “Big Labor,” the bully
- Speak with conviction—we own both the legal merits and the moral high ground!
- Frame the issue: the right of the individual not to be forced into supporting and funding politics they oppose.
- Use the term “government unions,” and not just unions; the Janus case only pertains to public sector unions, and not trade unions or other unions in the private sector. Also, polling from Heart+Mind Strategies shows Americans view the idea of unions favorably, but do not like government and unions colluding and pooling their power to force people into a system they do not support.
- Don’t appear to be attacking all unions, the right to organize, or labor in general.
- Don’t use loaded terminology such as “union busting,” “Big Labor,” or say the unions will suffer, or position this case as a maneuver intended to kneecap unions, progressives or Democrats.
- Don’t conflate government and private sector unions, or lump them all into one.
- On the same token, do not go to the extreme and say that this won’t affect unions at all or they won’t see any effect; we do not want to position Mark Janus as a man on an island, the only guy in America who has an issue with the status quo or a rare bird; there is widespread support for Janus across the country from all kinds of government workers.
- Don’t get mired in a Left v. Right, Progressive v. Conservative debate that’s off-message.
- Don’t concede the “David v. Goliath” narrative; Janus supporters are fighting for the less powerful individual—the dissenter—who is up against big unions.
- Don’t allow AFSCME and its allies to get away with claiming they solely represent the “middle class” and “working families.”