Janus case: We lost the battle; can we win the war?


Here’s the scenario: One hundred people band together to fight a zoning case. They hire a lawyer. The lawyer wins the case. How many of those 100 people should pay her fees?

If you said all of them should share in the cost because they all shared in the benefit, you are on the side of unions in the Janus case. If you said “only those who feel like paying,” you are on the side of the union-busting Supreme Court.

In the Janus case, the Supreme Court upended 40 years of precedent in deciding that even though all employees benefit from the work of their union—negotiating salaries and benefits, defending the employees from egregious acts by their employers—only those employees that felt like it had to support the work of the unions. The rest? They could freeload.

The plaintiff said that being compelled to pay union dues was a violation of his 1st Amendment rights, because that same union also carried out political acts. That’s baloney. The fees charged (called “fair share fees”) pay for the contract work on behalf of non-union members. Those who choose to join the union pay the fair share fee AND extra money to support the political work. It’s been that way for 40 years – but not any more.

We are living in a new Gilded Age, where conservatives running our governments have chosen to side with big business and against the interests of everyday citizens. That is the choice that conservatives have usually made, but today’s conservative class are taking it to new depths of attack. Given the chance, they will take more and more from the poor and the middle class, and give what they take to the donor class.

The one point of light I see in the growing oligarch darkness is that the people seem to have awakened. Coalitions are forming, activism is growing, and people are fighting back. Unions and union members are standing with the poor and the powerless, and activists who’ve never been a member of a union are standing with the unions.

'The one point of light I see in the growing oligarch darkness is that the people seem to have awakened.' – Bruce MaplesClick To Tweet

The Janus case was a battle lost, but the fight continues

Be clear about this: The Janus case was not an end in itself. It was a lost battle in a larger struggle, the fight to save both our opportunities and our democracy from those who would take them away from us. For now at least, we still have the freedom to speak, the freedom to assemble, and the freedom to draw new allies to our side.

And, for now, we have the freedom to vote. This fall’s elections will ultimately be about one thing – whose vision for America will we choose? It is time to help every voter, even those who have no idea Janus even happened, to understand that that is the choice they face. And then, once they understand that, we must get them to the polls, no matter what.

I read a quote recently by Dr. T’Chanda Prescod-Weinstein that encapsulates, for me, the attitude I choose to take about this moment in our history as a democracy:

Movements are for when we lose, not when we win.

Looks like it’s time for a movement.

Dr. Prescod-Weinstein: 'Movements are for when we lose, not when we win.' Looks like it's time for a movement.Click To Tweet


Bruce Maples
Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. He has been President, Vice-President, and Treasurer of the Metro Democratic Club, and has served on the Democratic Party Executive Committee in Louisville. He began blogging in 2004, and currently operates two personal blogs (BruceMaples.com and brucewriter.com). He founded Forward Kentucky in the wake of the state elections in 2015, and expanded it in the summer of 2016. He has lived in Louisville since 1992 with his wife and two sons.
  • Great message for this Independence Day weekend! Freedom is something to be cherished and never be taken for granted. The moment we disengage and stop fighting, we begin to lose ground. Keeping our nation free is not just a job for the military, it is the job of every American.