For the past year Capital & Main has produced a wide range of coverage of Janus v. AFSCME. Below we offer a comprehensive primer on the case, its origins and its potential implications.
Co-published by AlterNet
A Supreme Court case that could topple the power of California’s unions has been a perfect storm gathering for 40 years.
The biggest reason for the decline of unions, says author Rick Wartzman, is because “companies have set out to beat the hell out of them. Corporate America has really ground down organized labor through means both legal and illegal.”
As workplace protections have come under attack, California has created labor-organizing models to resist attempts to erode labor standards and impose right-to-work measures.
If legendary labor activist Joe Hill were alive today — and some contend that he is — he would have plenty to say about the state of the American worker. And the country, if it listened, would have plenty to learn.
Hill, who was executed in Utah 100 years ago this month, was an unapologetically radical union organizer whose rough-hewn songs and poems matched the brutal working conditions endured by tens of millions of Americans in the early 20th century. While his lyrics might at first sound anachronistic to contemporary audiences, their underlying spirit speaks directly to the experiences of far too many in our often unforgiving 21st century economy.
“Would you have freedom from wage slavery… Would you from mis’ry and hunger be free,” from Hill’s 1913 anthem “There Is Power in a Union,” could easily have been inspired by the thousands of truck drivers who haul goods to and from the nation’s largest port in Los Angeles.