You may have heard about the recent Supreme Court case Janus v. Americans Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The case involved a challenge to the practice of public sector unions charging agency fees to workers who decline to join the union but still reap the benefits. These fees allow unions to avoid the free rider problem of non-members receiving the same benefits as members due to union negotiations. The Court sided with Janus ruling that since unions are political actors forcing members to pay dues can be construed as coerced support for a political organization they may not agree with thus violating their 1st amendment rights. This ruling is a sad day for all proponents of workers rights as without these agency fees unions face a fight for their survival.
Throughout our history unions have been at the forefront of advancing workers rights. For example, we have sick leave, vacation, and the 40-hour standard work week because of labor unions. Additionally, unions have been a driving force in raising wages. Union workers get paid 22 percent more than non-unionized workers and non-unionized workers still benefit from unions raising the overall bar for higher wages. Higher wages allow people to keep up with the increasing cost of living.
I am a huge believer in organized labor. During my time as a delegate, I have made every effort to use union shops for everything we use. Using a labor union for all your needs avoids the problem of “lowest bid, lowest quality.” Union shops guarantee expert personnel and durable, high-quality materials, saving money on replacement costs down the road. The money spent on union labor goes back into the economy, providing economic stimulus and less need to cut goods and services.
It is no coincidence we have seen stagnant wages in the 21st century as unions have declined in membership. As Joe Biden said, “We build labor, we build America. We build labor, we build the middle class.” I couldn’t agree more with the former vice president and have fought for unions every day as your delegate. Stronger unions create a stronger economy and a stronger Virginia. To help support unions in this difficult time, please consider buying union-made items when possible. For a complete list, I use unionlabel.org.