PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Unions, and the people that make them up, headed to Portland City Hall on Wednesday night to rally against a Wednesday ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that ended mandatory union fees that support government employees working in collective bargaining agreements.
Those people say they will not be beaten by the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, a decision they say threatens organized labor.
“Our members know what is at stake,” said Stacy Chamberlain, the ex-director of AFSCME. “They know they need to stand together if we are going to be strong and negotiate good contracts and fight against privatization, some of the other things that we know that these anti worker groups are going to try to do.”
Gov. Kate Brown, along with other union leaders, issued a statement, calling the ruling “disappointing.”
“The Supreme Court’s disappointing ruling in the Janus case tips the scale yet again in favor of wealthy special interests, making it even harder for working families to get ahead. Despite that decision, however, Oregon’s unions will remain strong as long as union members stick together and continue acting collectively for the common good of all workers.”
Tom Chamberlain, the President of OR AFL-CIO, doesn’t think the decision will affect local unions.
“They think this court case will destroy the labor movement, they think this court case will weaken our political power — the truth is our power is our membership,” he said.
The ruling overturns a nearly 40-year precedent. And while many are crying out against it, others are supporting it.
“We think this is a great thing for Oregon public employees because they now have the freedom to choose,” said Kathryn Hickock with the Cascade Policy Institute.
She also said the decision will encourage unions to work for their members.
“This ruling puts the burden on the union to prove to employees that they are going to successfully advocate for the interest of the employees and there should be incentives for employees to opt into the union rather than making it difficult for employees to opt out,” she said.
Shirley Block, the President of ATV Local, said unions already have their members’ best interests in mind.
“I look at it as a tree: the management people are all the leaves on the tree and the frontline people are the root of the tree. And if you damage them, then the whole tree is going to tumble down,” she said.
Unions are still required to represent workers even if they do not pay dues.