SALEM, ORE. – The United States Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Janus V. AFSCME today. This case is the latest in a long line of attacks on organized labor, but union workers in Oregon remain more committed than ever to building an economy where working people have a pathway to prosperity. The case targets public-sector workers represented by many unions.
“Our union is stronger than ever,” said Stacy Chamberlain, Executive Director of Oregon AFSCME. “Members see this case for what it is - an attempt to silence their voices and it won’t work. We are growing, activism within our membership is on the rise, and we are seeing more members take the next step to becoming leaders at their workplaces. We see examples of heightened member engagement in Multnomah County, fighting for workforce equity and inclusion, and walking out on strike over for pay equity in Lane County. Our union is living proof that we can make a difference for working people in our communities through the power of collective action.”
“Janus vs. AFSCME is just the latest court case funded by wealthy interests trying to weaken unions at exactly the moment when what we all need is more good jobs,” said Sara Campos, a Marion County Health Educator and member of SEIU 503. “We’ve faced this tactic before with 2014’s Harris vs. Quinn and it has only made our union stronger, with membership growing every year since.”
Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain explains the intent behind attacks like Janus:
“Janus is simply another blatant attempt to rig the rules of the economy against working people. At a time when income inequality is on the rise, rents are getting higher, and healthcare is treated as a privilege of the wealthy, unions remain the single most important tool workers have to achieve economic freedom. That’s why we are under attack, and that is why we are committed to fighting back and organizing for a brighter future.”
Oregon Education Association President John Larson, a high school English teacher from Hermiston, explains how the case has brought educators together and what the impact of their organizing efforts will mean for Oregon’s students:
“Educators and union members are unfortunately accustomed to these kinds of attacks. What has not changed is that we continue to have thousands of one-to-one conversations with teachers, specialists, support staff, and community college staff and faculty to build relationships and ensure that they feel that their participation in our union is valuable. A strong union means strong school employees, which benefit our students in innumerable ways. This attack on public-sector unions has been a catalyst for many members to increase their involvement in OEA.”
AFT-Oregon represents education workers across the state, including higher education faculty, and is inspired by recent organizing victories on university campuses, including the signing of an economic agreement between graduate workers at Portland State University and the administration on February 17, which will establish a brand-new union there. AFT-Oregon President David Rives, a community college instructor, explains:
“We’re stronger when we join together. Together in our unions, we’ve won better wages, job security, and crucial healthcare benefits, along with increases to paid sick days and vacation. Right now, graduate workers at Portland State University are establishing a new union while faculty are organizing at Oregon State University. Unions are more necessary than ever, and we are growing.”
By choosing to join together, workers have power in numbers. Oregon’s unions bring workers together to make Oregon a better place to live and work for everyone. Because of Oregon’s strong unions, working people across the state have a higher minimum wage, paid sick days, fair scheduling laws, and a fair shot at prosperity. Oregon’s unions are more committed than ever to building on those successes together in the future.