President Barbara Bowen, Professional Staff Congress (PSC/CUNY), AFT #2334
The Janus decision is not about the First Amendment. It is about consolidating wealth, power and even health in the hands of the few while imposing permanent economic austerity on everyone else. The majority decision helps to advance an agenda that has been planned and lavishly funded by billionaires and far-right organizations. Its goal is to undo every gain made by workers, people of color, immigrants, women, the middle class and the poor during the last half-century.
As historians have reminded us, “right-to-work” laws have their origin in an effort to maintain Jim Crow labor relations in the segregated South.
The organizations that groomed and bankrolled Mark Janus sought to “defund and defang” unions, as one of their documents put it, because they understand that the power of unions goes far beyond the improvements unions make for our own members. Virtually every workplace standard in this country is the result of union organizing and union victories: the eight-hour day, workplace safety regulations, the minimum wage, the weekend. It is exactly that power that pro-Janus organizations want to destroy. They targeted public-sector unions because of our strength and the success we have had in defending the public services that are essential to the survival of those who are not rich: public schools, hospitals, parks and transportation.
But Mark Janus and his backers miscalculated. They failed to foresee that their attack on workers’ ability to organize would inspire unions to become stronger. Unions arose without the support of the law and will survive the Janus decision. Buoyed by two years of organizing in preparation for the decision, the PSC has its largest-ever membership and is continuing to grow. We will be out in the streets tonight doing what unions do best: taking collective action. And we have redoubled our commitment to resisting austerity for our public university and organizing for the contract we deserve.
The Professional Staff Congress (PSC/CUNY), affiliated with NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO, represents more than 30,000 full-time and adjunct faculty and professional staff at the City University of New York (CUNY).