Press Release

AFT Files Amicus Brief in Janus v. AFSCME

Brief lays out argument citing role of collective bargaining in improving public sector workplaces, repudiating plaintiff’s constitutionally flawed warping and weaponizing of the First Amendment

For Release: 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Contact:

Andrew Crook
o: 202-393-8637 | c: 607-280-6603
acrook@aft.org

WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Teachers today filed an amicus brief in support of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees against the corporate-backed plaintiff in the Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME Council 31.

AFT President Randi Weingarten says: “The fight for prosperity and opportunity for all, embodied by the labor movement, is an anathema to the corporate backers of this case—the people funding it are the same people attacking civil rights, attacking voting rights and attacking public education.

“This case warps and weaponizes the First Amendment by enabling one person’s complaint—without any record or evidence—to undermine the interests of millions of workers across the country who benefit from collective bargaining. And it suggests that collective bargaining, which operates just like any other workplace consultation process, should draw far more constitutional scrutiny than its equivalents.

“The current law has preserved labor peace for four decades by balancing the interests of workers and employers and fostering partnerships to improve school districts and other public sector workplaces. We argue that engaging in collective bargaining is constitutionally no different than the state paying a consultant to advise it on employment relations issues. Further, the plaintiff’s argument is a dishonest rejection of established legal precedent, reaffirmed many times, and therefore must fail.

“I am confident that if the nine justices of the Supreme Court consider this case on the merits, not ideologically, they would agree.”

The AFT brief argues that the government here is an employer, not a sovereign, and that the First Amendment places far less restrictions on the government when it acts as an employer, as opposed to the stricter scrutiny when it acts as a sovereign.

Accordingly, just as there are no constitutional issues when an employer makes workplace decisions relying on the advice of outside consultants, there should also be none when those same decisions arise from collective bargaining, particularly where the costs for both come from the same pot of money available for wages and benefits.

The brief further shows how fair share fees are central to an efficient and effective public sector and describes how labor-management partnerships have thrived under their use.

The full AFT brief can be read here.

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.