Real Talk About The Changes To Your Union

What’s this all about? Anti-labor forces funded by the wealthy elite and their crony friends have launched another assault on working Americans, this time with a case before the U.S. Supreme Court known as Janus v. AFSCME. The Janus case — challenging fair-share fees and threatening public-sector unions — culminates decades of assault on working people by right-wing ideologues and wealthy special interests. This webpage outlines briefly what is at stake in the Janus case. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask your local union leaders or stewards what it would mean if Vermont became a “right-to-work-for-less” state.

Here’s what you need to know to protect your labor rights:

Q: I saw an ad that said I should give myself a raise and stop paying union dues. Why shouldn’t I?

A: Because it’s not true. The U.S. Supreme Court decision does give you a chance to stop paying dues. But you won’t get a raise. It will cost you. A weakened union would lead to long-term cuts, loss of benefits and salary stagnation for everyone. You gain benefits from having a strong union representing you at the bargaining table. If our union loses, we all lose, period.

Q: What is the motivation behind these cases?

A: These court cases — including Janus v. AFSCME— are backed by corporate profiteers and hedge-funders. Their goal is to weaken unions, which will hurt all workers. That’s who is spreading the bogus claim that you can give yourself a raise — the wealthy. They will get a raise, not you.

Q: What’s at stake in this Janus case?

A: Back in 1977, another U.S. Supreme Court decision established that, if you benefit from union representation, even if you don’t join the union, it is fair and reasonable to expect to pay something for it. Your wages, benefits and retirement security all come from the union’s influence over terms and conditions, even if you’re not a member.

The adverse decision in Janus has overturned that decision and will force cuts in resources directed toward union services. Dues and fair-share revenues fund union services, including bargaining power, legal representation and much more.

Loss of revenue means loss of strength, and there’s no question that a weaker union would have an adverse effect on employment and your quality of life.

Q: What could happen?

A: We’ve already seen what happens to union strength in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, three states that lost the right to collective bargaining in the past several years. Compared to union workers in neighboring Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio, the workers in the right-to-work states earn 8 percent less annually, according to research from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute. Salaries go down, benefits evaporate, jobs disappear and the economy stagnates.

Q: A law firm advertises that it can provide me with protection for a fraction of what we pay in dues.

A: Don’t be misled. No, hourly billed law firm can match the range of benefits, rights and opportunities your VSEA membership guarantees. Your union gives you access to member benefits, discounts, a contract that protects your salary, benefits and working conditions and a strong voice in determining what those are. For-profit opportunists may use misleading advertising in an attempt to make money but there’s no comparison. The VSEA is the expert in public employee representation.

Q: What does VSEA’s legal team do?

A: It represents hundreds of VSEA members every year, protecting their rights to due process and ensuring enforcement of the provisions in their hard-earned contracts. VSEA field and legal teams also represents the total membership — more than 7,000 people — in legal challenges that affect our professions, our public institutions and our rights to represent the best interests of those we serve.

Q: Bottom line: Why should I stay with my union?

A: Our union negotiates for competitive pay and better benefits and makes sure our contract is honored. The VSEA fights to protect our labor rights, retirement security and to keep our jobs and services from being privatized.

Together, we have the power to exercise and protect our rights, defend the things we value, and give our members a voice. Defending our union means preserving our voice, defending our values, and protecting what we need to succeed in our professional lives. If our voice is diminished, our families, our communities, and the people we serve to lose. Together, we have the will and the power to fight this threat and protect what is ours. When we all commit to our union, we can protect what’s ours and defend what we have earned.

Stand with VSEA, stand with your co-workers, stand proud to be union!

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