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Janus opens floodgates of attacks on unions, workers

On Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court decided by a narrow margin to side with corporate special interests and willing politicians who have engineered the Janus v. AFSCME case to undermine working people’s right to build power in numbers.

The case is nothing more than a political attack against working people. It is an attempt by the rich and powerful to limit our resources to fight, through unions, for working families and communities. They have plotted for decades to take away our freedom to negotiate fair wages, decent benefits like health care, retirement security and safe conditions so they can demand even bigger bonuses.

Now that the Janus decision has come down, labor is witnessing anti-worker groups conducting an all-out assault on labor’s existence. Americans for Prosperity, an organization funded by a dark-money network of corporate funders that have amassed more than $84 million in order to liberate workers from their hard fought-for workplace gains, has taken the lead in pushing anti-worker “right-to-work”-for less legislation in New Mexico counties. Claiming to be from a “grass-roots organization,” it is calling, soliciting and tricking members into giving up rights, pay and benefits by dropping union membership.

Their true goals are simpler and less respectable: Consolidate wealth at the top, limit our power in numbers and undo progress made on secure pensions, pay equity, health coverage and policies that protect and keep us healthy at work. New Mexicans shouldn’t fall for the scam.

CEOs know unionized workers help win fair wages for union and nonunion workers alike. Our efforts and success in negotiating strong contracts improves access to health care and retirement security. We succeed in combatting wage inequality in our communities. When nurses, firefighters, highway maintenance workers, social workers, police officers, 911 dispatchers, home health aides, corrections officers, mental health workers, tax auditors, probation and parole officers, and other public employees belong to unions, jobs are protected from outsourcing, pensions and retirement plans are shielded from greedy Wall Street gamblers’ hands, and job conditions remain protected by strong contracts. And equally important, workers’ unions fight to ensure quality public services are provided to N.M. residents.

When union membership is high, our communities enjoy wages that represent a fair return on work and greater social and economic mobility. And unions use our collective voice to advocate for policies that benefit all working people, like increases to the minimum wage, affordable health care and great public schools. Union jobs continue to be a path to social mobility for people of color and women, who are disproportionately hurt by this rigged economy.

We should all be outraged that in a state like New Mexico, where we have high poverty rates and low wages, organizations like AFP, the Freedom Foundation and the State Policy Network affiliate Rio Grande Foundation are tapping into the $84 million to fight our co-workers, our families, our neighbors. Just think of the good $84 million could do instead to work with communities in need, reduce the number of children who go to school hungry, provide assistance to veterans, help fund research to fight cancer. But that isn’t the case.

So labor unions are more critical to America’s success than ever. You don’t need to be a member to know freedom is not given, it is fought for and must be protected. By continuing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of standing up for civil and labor rights, we’re going to fix this rigged system once and for all. Workers must stand together with our communities and elected officials to make the fight to protect our freedoms easier, not harder.