Court and Labor Union Challenge

New high court challenge to labor unions follows 4-4 split

WASHINGTON – Conservative groups are wasting little time in trying to deal a crippling blow to labor unions now that Justice Neil Gorsuch has joined the Supreme Court.

A First Amendment clash over public sector unions left the justices deadlocked last year after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. But union opponents have quickly steered a new case through federal courts in Illinois and they plan to appeal it to the high court on Tuesday.

The groups say unions representing government employees violate the free speech rights of workers by collecting money from people who don’t want to join.

If the high court agrees, it could threaten the financial viability of unions and reduce the clout of labor, one of the biggest contributors to Democratic political campaigns.

The Supreme Court seemed all but certain to rule against the unions in a similar case — Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association — argued before Scalia died. That case, involving a California teachers’ union, was the first of several to split 4-4 while the court was short-handed. The deadlock left in place a four-decade-old practice that lets public-sector unions collect fees from non-members to cover the costs of collective bargaining.

“Our hope is that a year from now, the Supreme Court will end this injustice and free every public school teacher, safety officer and other government worker to decide for themselves whether or not to financially support a union with their hard-earned money,” said a joint statement from the two organizations backing the case – the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and Liberty Justice Center.

The Supreme Court won’t consider taking up the case until September at the earliest.

The latest appeal comes as union membership in the U.S. hit new lows last year, sinking to just 10.7 percent of the workforce. As private union membership has steadily declined, about half of all union members now work for federal, state and local government. Most of them are in states like Illinois, New York, and California that are largely Democratic and seen as friendly toward unions.

The Illinois case involves Mark Janus, a state employee who says Illinois law violates his free speech rights by requiring him to pay fees subsidizing a union he doesn’t support, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. About half the states have similar laws covering so-called “fair share” fees that cover bargaining costs for nonmembers.

Janus is seeking to overturn a 1977 Supreme Court case that said public workers who refuse to join a union can still be required to pay for bargaining costs, as long as the fees don’t go toward political purposes. The arrangement was supposed to prevent nonmembers from “free riding,” since the union has a legal duty to represent all workers.

A federal appeals court in Chicago rejected Janus’ claim in March, ruling that the fees were constitutional under the 1977 case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders called the case an effort to chip away at the power of unions “to negotiate a fair return on our work, provide for our families, and lift up the concerns of all working families.”

Last year, the issue split the court’s liberal and conservative members during oral arguments in the California case. Several conservative justices, including Scalia, seemed ready to scrap Abood. They said bargaining issues like teacher salaries, merit promotions and class sizes are all intertwined with political issues involving the size of state budgets and how taxpayer dollars should be spent.

While unions avoided a loss after Scalia’s death, Gorsuch is seen as equally conservative, though he has not expressed views on the issue of fair share union fees.

For unions, the loss of millions in fees would reduce their power to bargain for higher wages and benefits for government employees.

“This is an aggressive litigation campaign aimed at undermining unions’ ability to operate by forcing them to represent people for free,” said Benjamin Sachs, a professor at Harvard Law School specializing in labor law.

Our Right To Protest Is Under Attack

America’s Freedom to Protest Is Under Attack

A UN special rapporteur was shocked to find abusive employers, anti-protest bills, and other signs of a weakening of democracy.

It’s no secret that America’s star is fading on the world stage these days, under a president whose authoritarian tactics have outraged allies and enemies alike. But a recent audit by an international human-rights monitor reveals that, even before Trump’s buffoonery took over the White House, Washington was failing dramatically to live up to its reputation as a beacon of democracy. UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly Maina Kiai’s dissection of the nation’s systematic betrayal of basic human rights centers on America’s shrinking public square.


Based on a year-long observation of the country’s governance and civic life that stretches from mid-2016 through the start of the Trump administration, Kiai, whose post recently ended with the publication of the report, sees a massive erosion of the right to freedom of assembly. The concept encompasses the right to organize and protest and other essential forms of civic and public activism. Though it is formally inscribed in the Bill of Rights, the precept has come under assault under the Trump administration, Kiai says, stoked by the president’s “hateful and xenophobic rhetoric during the presidential campaign” and blatant flouting of civil liberties in his policies and governing style.

Kiai concludes that over the past year a growing swath of communities of color, workers and immigrants, and other marginalized groups have felt deterred from engaging in social movements, staging protests and other forms of citizen action, or campaigning to defend community and workplace rights.

One overarching obstacle is the ingrained culture of racism, which has persisted since slavery through Jim Crow and the ongoing struggles with institutionalized discrimination. Citing police-community conflict as a primary illustration of structural oppression, Kiai argues, “Racism and the exclusion, persecution and marginalization that come with it affect the environment for exercising association and assembly rights.” His report directly denounces government agencies’ “hostility towards the Black Lives Matter movement,” contending that “The government has an obligation under international law to protect and promote” the group’s peaceful exercise of the right of free assembly. Similarly, the report describes structural corruption driving the use of perverse incentives in the policing of black communities, with “police departments raising revenue through fines and rewarding or sanctioning police officers based on the number of arrests.” These patterns of aggressive policing, Kiai says, disempower neighborhoods by deterring dissent.

The evaluation, focused on field research conducted in 2016 and analyzing issues that have intensified under Trump, documents increasingly anti-democratic enforcement tactics against immigrant communities at risk of civil-rights abuses. Kiai cites reports of immigration agents “conducting surveillance at assemblies focused on migrant issues,” which he argues “chills the exercise of assembly rights.” As noncitizens who cannot vote and lack other legal rights, he adds, protesting is “one of the only tools they have to voice their concerns. The government should encourage the exercise of this right by everyone, especially marginalized groups.”

Kiai tackles direct restrictions on the right to protest as well, noting an “increasingly hostile legal environment for peaceful protesters in some states,” particularly trumped-up penalties against spontaneous or “unpermitted” peaceful public demonstrations. South Dakota and Tennessee recently passed laws against blocking streets during protests. Nationwide, about 29 such anti-protest bills have been proposed or passed since November, coinciding with an unprecedented wave of street demonstrations against Trump.

Some jurisdictions deter activists by charging organizations hefty fees simply for the right to stage a public demonstration. Burdening the citizenry with onerous fees and red tape, Kiai says, clashes with international guidelines against requiring pre-approval of planned protests. The report recommends instead allowing groups to simply notify officials of, rather than seek prior approval for, planned protests, arguing that giving government extensive control over dissent “risks turning the right into a privilege.”

Deterioration of free-assembly rights is glaringly apparent in the workplace. Despite the United States’ historical role as an architect of the International Labour Organization standards on workers’ rights, the report argues that its foundational labor law, the National Labor Rights Act, “legalises practices that severely infringe workers’ rights to associate” and “provides few incentives for employers to respect workers’ rights.”

Labor regulation is eviscerated by weak enforcement and underfunding, particularly “compared to the massive resources dedicated to other law enforcement functions in the United States.” Given the prevalence of endemic violations like wage theft in low-wage industries, Kiai observes an imbalance in government priorities: protecting corporations’ profits while unraveling basic regulatory protections for workers as well as their right to organize, at a time when traditional unions are shrinking as a political force.

The environment for workers is extremely hostile in the US, and frankly it shocked me…. Where’s the outrage? The US had the War on Drugs, so why not a War on Abusive Employers? It’s clearly an epidemic that has the potential to deeply damage the economic and social fabric of the country.

Kiai’s analysis also extends beyond issues surrounding the right to protest and warns of the corrosive impacts of capitalism on democracy. Citing the mass protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline as an illustration of the corporate assault on grassroots activists, he argues that Trump’s crackdown on protesters reflects an agenda of “market fundamentalism,” exploiting natural resources for short-term profits while neglecting the human rights of impacted communities, which “undermines indigenous people’s land, territorial and resource rights.”

Kiai stresses the irony of America failing to “walk the talk” as a liberal democratic superpower. The United States has repeatedly supported, and often helped develop, international standards on, for example, the right to free speech under the United Nations framework, yet systematically fails to institute the same principles in domestic law. Nonetheless, he concludes that despite what appears to be a regression in free assembly rights under the new president, civil society remains a vibrant, if embattled, force of resistance:

Trump’s rhetoric is often violent and divisive, with a heavy authoritarian streak. He doesn’t even pay lip service to fundamental rights…. It’s not an easy environment in which to exercise your expressive rights, and that environment seems to have become markedly worse since my visit. Yet despite this, we’ve seen the emergence of a massive and sustained protest movement–that’s something that is truly encouraging and moving.

Despite, or because of Trump’s authoritarianism, a counter-populist movement is building, renewing the meaning of free assembly as a coming together of the dispossessed.

North Carolina Slave Conspiracies of 1802 ( North Carolina New Afrikans Wanted a Black Nation )

State of North Carolina Bertie County The examination of Sundry Negro Slaves touching a conspiracy supposed to exist among the slave to rebel taken at Windsor before Justice assigned to keep them from the County of Bertie above named taken at Windsor this ninth day of June one hour and eighteen hundred and two. That […]

via North Carolina Slave Conspiracies of 1802 ( North Carolina New Afrikans Wanted a Black Nation ) — newafrikan77

Marginalized into Nothingness

Marginalized into nothingness. I’ll say ‘people are being enslaved and no one seems to care or even see them. More concerned with climate change than your enslaved neighbor’s freedom.’ They’ll say can’t we do both in concordance? Both are equally important. Then on another day, I’ll say ‘children are being subject to a school […]

via Marginalized Into Nothingness — My Name is Jamie. My Life in Prison

May Day Statement

As the convening organization for May 1st, 2017 RI Jobs with Justice finds itself in a complicated but welcome position. May 1st has so many vital and relevant meanings. May 1st is the International Day of Workers Struggle. Originally organized during the protests and martyrdoms of the 8-hour movement 130 years ago. Today we find ourselves in much the same position and with new urgency. We call on our ancestors to help inform us as we bring the struggle back to the streets. We call on Lucy Parsons to draft our map to chart a new course of liberation.

With the manifestation of Trump, it as though he scales have fallen from so many people’s eyes. The threats that Black people, Immigrants, LGBTQA people, Women have been facing for time immemorial are made real for the rest of settler society. We welcome this. We are calling on May 1st to be a people’s inauguration of a new Popular Front that is truly committed to building an intersectional movement of revolt and love.
All the people and organizations who have been working on the planning for the May1st events have made a commitment to each other that they would be there for each other. We all agreed that this May 1st we needed to accept that Our economy as it stands is failing us. That we are need to build a new economy that centers on people.
-We agree that Black Lives Matter and that anti-blackness is the thread that unites so much that is horrific in Rhode Island, the nation and the world.
-We agree that white supremacy is manifest in all parts of our society, it takes its ugliest form in our criminal justice system, and schools.
-We agree that the Earth cannot survive the path we are on. Our children deserve a life in a clean beautiful world.
-We agree that the worlds indigenous community have over millennia developed strategies and tactics for survival that can show the rest of us a path to building resilient societies.
-We agree that a woman is human being and that we all must be active and vigilant in all the myriad ways the state, capital, and society can seek to destroy a Woman’s agency and power.
-We agree that labor is entitled to all it produces, and this includes un-compensated emotional, sexual, and reproductive labor that we need to continue as a
We agree that we have a right to love, and to be loved, and are committed to freeing desire.
-We agree that nationalism is a toxic narcotic that can blind otherwise good people into cruelty.
-We agree that only a new internationalism rooted in community can build a new world.
-We agree that all people have a right to housing.
-We agree that all people have a right to beauty.
-We agree that al people have a right to food.
-We agree that all people have a right meaningful work.
-We agree that no one should live in the shadows, that all our world travelers are to be fully welcomed and fully included into our lives.
-We agree that the current criminal justice system is a failure and call for its abolition.
-We believe all workers have a right to collectively bargain and strike.
-Most importantly we believe another world is possible.
It is the honor of RI Jobs with Justice to help facilitate and make this real. It is the honor of my life to be in SOLIDARITY with my community.
-Mike Araujo, Executive Director, Rhode Island Jobs with Justice.

Como organización convocante para el 1 de mayo de 2017, RI Jobs with Justice se encuentra en una posición complicada pero bienvenida. El 1 de mayo tiene tantos significados vitales y relevantes. El 1 de mayo es el Día Internacional de la Lucha de los Trabajadores. Originalmente organizado durante las protestas y martirios del movimiento de 8 horas hace 130 años. Hoy nos encontramos en la misma posición y con una nueva urgencia. Hacemos un llamamiento a nuestros antepasados ​​para que nos ayuden a informarnos mientras llevamos la lucha a las calles. Pedimos a Lucy Parsons que elabore nuestro mapa para trazar un nuevo curso de liberación.
Con la manifestación de Trump, como si hubiera escalado los ojos de tanta gente. Las amenazas que los negros, inmigrantes, personas LGBTQA, las mujeres han estado enfrentando durante tiempo inmemorial se hacen reales para el resto de la sociedad de los colonos. Damos la bienvenida a esto. Estamos llamando el 1 de mayo a ser la inauguración popular de un nuevo Frente Popular que está verdaderamente comprometido a construir un movimiento interseccional de rebelión y amor.
Todas las personas y organizaciones que han estado trabajando en la planificación de los eventos del 1 de mayo se han comprometido mutuamente a estar allí el uno para el otro. Todos estuvimos de acuerdo en que este 1 de mayo necesitábamos aceptar que Nuestra economía, tal como está, nos está fallando. Que necesitamos construir una nueva economía que se centre en la gente.
-Estamos de acuerdo en que Black Lives Matter y ese anti-blackness es el hilo que une tanto que es horrible en Rhode Island, la nación y el mundo.
– Estamos de acuerdo en que la supremacía blanca se manifiesta en todas partes de nuestra sociedad, toma su forma más fea en nuestro sistema de justicia penal y en las escuelas.
– Estamos de acuerdo en que la Tierra no puede sobrevivir al camino en el que estamos. Nuestros hijos merecen una vida en un mundo limpio y hermoso.
-Conocemos que la comunidad indígena de los mundos ha desarrollado durante más de milenios estrategias y tácticas de supervivencia que pueden mostrar al resto de nosotros un camino hacia la construcción de sociedades resilientes.
-Estamos de acuerdo en que una mujer es un ser humano y que todos debemos ser activos y vigilantes en todas las miríadas de maneras en que el Estado, el capital y la sociedad pueden tratar de destruir el poder y la agencia de una mujer.
-Aceptamos que el trabajo tiene derecho a todo lo que produce, y esto incluye el trabajo emocional, sexual y reproductivo no compensado que necesitamos para continuar como un
Estamos de acuerdo en que tenemos el derecho de amar, y de ser amados, y estamos comprometidos a liberar el deseo.
-Estamos de acuerdo en que el nacionalismo es un narcótico tóxico que puede ciego de otra manera buena gente en la crueldad.
-Estamos de acuerdo en que sólo un nuevo internacionalismo arraigado en la comunidad puede construir un nuevo mundo.
-Estamos de acuerdo en que todas las personas tienen derecho a la vivienda.
-Aceptamos que todas las personas tienen derecho a la belleza.
-Estamos de acuerdo en que todas las personas tienen derecho a la comida.
-Estamos de acuerdo en que todas las personas tienen un trabajo correcto y significativo.
-Estamos de acuerdo en que nadie debe vivir en las sombras, que todos nuestros viajeros del mundo deben ser plenamente acogidos y plenamente incluidos en nuestras vidas.
– Estamos de acuerdo en que el actual sistema de justicia penal es un fracaso y piden su abolición.
-Creemos que todos los trabajadores tienen derecho a negociar colectivamente y hacer huelga.
-Más importante es que creemos que otro mundo es posible.
Es el honor de RI Jobs con Justicia ayudar a facilitar y hacer esto real. Es el honor de mi vida estar en SOLIDARIDAD con mi comunidad.
-Mike Araujo, Director Ejecutivo, Rhode Island Jobs con Justicia.

Make Ban the Box Better

The rush to criminalize and punish has led to a draconian culture. There is an irrevocable nature to our penal system that has created a class of people that are marked, stigmatized, and isolated. We cannot propose on the one hand that all mistakes are permanent, and on the other hand we cannot live with the pretense that we live in society that believes in redemption. So rarely is being humane part of our criminal justice system, Ban the Box is an attempt to inject humanity into and often cruel system. When a debt to society is paid, it must be considered paid in full. When a sentence is over we must keep our promise not make a life sentence out of every conviction.

Ban the box.jpg

Rhode Island stepped up and provided a path for the formerly incarcerated to engage in the full economic life of RI. It is common sense, after all we believe that when a debt is paid then it is paid. Rhode Island took a bold step to undo the damage of mass incarceration. The tool to do this was Ban the Box. This is a law that prohibits a box on an employment application that asks about a criminal record. This was done because that little box became a short cut to a rubbish bin. Ban the Box allowed an applicant to discuss their status directly with an employer. This provides a path to a relationship, a chance to explain circumstance, a chance to move on.

In my role at Jobs with Justice as Director I am lucky enough to meet and spend time with Rhode Islanders from all over, mostly working people at all points of life. It is the barriers that working people face can be massive and building a life worth living requires the full spectrum of our shared humanity to make it. We cannot afford people on the outside of our society. Ban the Box as good as it is, it still needs a chance to work. Representatives Slater and Diaz have made a proposed a change will provide employers to be armed with the information they need to comply with Ban the Box, and give prospective employees the tools they need to get employed.

In the 3 years since implementation Ban the Box we have seen serious improvement in the treatment of our formerly incarcerated neighbors, now it is time to take another step and fully implement the law through better information and better agency engagement. Serious discussion about streamlining the process of reporting Ban the Box violations, with the changes that are proposed an applicant can report Ban the Box violation directly to the Dept. of Labor and Training.  Many of the violations happen because of simple lack of  knowledge, with improved notification, the vast majority of violations would simply go away. Egregious violations or multiple issues will go to the RI Human Rights Commission for investigation.

The Human Rights Commission, Dept. of Labor and Training, RI Jobs with Justice, DARE, and the ACLU and the bill’s prime sponsor Representative Scott Slater negotiated a clear path to make Ban the Box a meaningful law and that is why we urge passage of House Bill 6141.

Bank Fraud as a Business Plan

Former Wells Fargo Employees Call for Elaine Chao’s Senate Nomination Hearings to Explore What She Knew About Systemic Fraud Scandal at Bank


New Letter Asks Senators to Explore What Elaine Chao, Member of Wells Fargo Board of Directors Since 2011, Knew About Systemic Fraud at Wells Fargo


Washington, DC – Former Wells Fargo employees have issued a new letter to the U.S. Senate asking that the upcoming Senate confirmation hearings for Secretary of Treasury nominee Elaine Chao include questions to explore her knowledge of the fraud scandal at Wells Fargo, in which up to two million fake accounts were created by Wells Fargo bankers in order to meet sales targets and for which the bank has been fined more than $180 million. Ms. Chao has been a member of the Wells Fargo Board of Directors since 2011.


The letter, from the Committee for Better Banks, states, “We believe that Ms. Chao’s confirmation hearings should address this issue to provide the American public with a fuller and truer sense of when, exactly, members of Wells Fargo’s board became aware of this systemic fraud and why it took them so long to act to rectify the problem. In particular, we hope that you will use the opportunity of her nomination hearings to ask her directly when she was made aware of the allegations raised by workers prior to the action taken by the CFPB. Getting this information is also crucial as you assess whether Ms. Chao has the appropriate management approach to lead an effective and responsible Department of Transportation.”


Ms. Chao is scheduled to have a confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Wednesday, January 11th. The letter from the Wells Fargo employees to the Senate is pasted below:


“As former employees of Wells Fargo, we are writing you regarding the nomination of Elaine Chao to serve as Secretary of Transportation. As you likely know, Ms. Chao has served on the Board of Directors of Wells Fargo since 2011, which we believe merits your attention as you consider her nomination.


Much attention has rightfully been paid to the scandal in which up to two million fake accounts were created by Wells Fargo bankers in order to meet unrealistic and unfair sales targets. We are grateful to banking regulators, particularly the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for their work exposing this scandal and to rectify the harm done to consumers. We are similarly appreciative of the members of Congress and the U.S. Senate who have supported efforts to rectify consumer harm and hold Wells Fargo executives accountable.


Unfortunately, former Wells Fargo CEO and Chairman John Stumpf and other members of Wells Fargo leadership have worked to evade accountability and to shift blame to the very same workers whom they forced into the pressure cooker environment that ultimately led to this scandal. In particular, we do not believe that there has been an honest accounting regarding when and how Wells Fargo leadership became aware of the widespread creation of fake accounts.


We can personally attest that Wells Fargo supervisors directed bankers to meet unrealistic sales quotas by any means necessary. These same supervisors were fully aware that it was exceedingly difficult for any banker to hit these targets while treating customers fairly, and it is implausible that many of these supervisors were totally unaware of the fraud resulting from their own directives. Yet, Mr. Stumpf and others have insisted that they had very little knowledge of the scope of this problem until recently.


We are members of the Committee for Better Banks (CBB) a coalition advocating for improvements in the banking industry. We identified unreasonable and excessive sales goals, quotas and metrics as a significant issue in the industry and supported a petition started by Wells Fargo workers several years ago. In both 2014 and 2015 members of CBB went to Wells Fargo shareholder meetings delivering the petitions and a message about the impact of the excessive sales goals on employees and customers. We did demonstrations and protests around the country that received a great deal of publicity and we were part of a congressional briefing on the issue. It is hard to imagine the members of the Wells Fargo board was not aware of this festering problem.


We believe that Ms. Chao’s confirmation hearings should address this issue to provide the American public with a fuller and truer sense of when, exactly, members of Wells Fargo’s board became aware of this systemic fraud and why it took them so long to act to rectify the problem. In particular, we hope that you will use the opportunity of her nomination hearings to ask her directly when she was made aware of the allegations raised by workers prior to the the action taken by the CFPB.


Getting this information is also crucial as you assess whether Ms. Chao has the appropriate management approach to lead an effective and responsible Department of Transportation. So, we hope that you will consider this issue strongly as you evaluate Ms. Chao’s nomination.


Thanks in advance for your consideration of our request.”



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