A year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that public-employee unions can no longer collect agency-fee payments from nonmembers, just 45 members have opted out of District Council 37 while the giant civilian-employee union has gained 14,000 new dues-payers.
Since the 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME late last June, 14,154 non-members have signed up to join DC 37, according to the union. That figure includes both former agency-fee payers and new city employees who signed union cards by June 28.
“To date, the numbers show that DC 37 members are determined to keep our union united and strong. With members engaged and committed to building for the strength for families and communities, we will continue our organizing efforts and grow our union,” said the union’s executive director Henry Garrido.
During several years immediately prior to the Janus decision, the number of agency-fee-payers at DC 37, which has 125,000 members, dropped from 28,000 to 7,000. Mr. Garrido previously explained that the union extensively campaigned to recruit members, educate them about the threat Janus posed and warn of the ramifications of opting out.
Although public-sector employees who are not union members are entitled to wage increases, they cannot obtain union services such as disciplinary-arbitration and grievance representation, according to a state law enacted by Governor Cuomo 15 months ago in anticipation of a negative ruling in the Janus case.
Unions across the country feared that the Supreme Court ruling would cripple the labor movement by ending their right under a 1977 high-court ruling to receive “fair-share” fees, hurting their funding, and diminishing their ability to wage contract campaigns and challenge employers. In right-to-work states, which have laws that prevent union membership and paying dues from being conditions of employment, participation in unions has declined, with organizations encouraging public-sector workers to drop their union.
New Contract Helped
DC 37 also scrambled to negotiate a contract that included 7.25 percent raises over a 44-month period, which was announced just a day before the Janus decision.
But Mr. Garrido told The Chief that he believed that a ruling against unions could work in their favor by “galvanizing” members.
“We believe that our destiny is not determined by a Supreme Court ruling which sided with anti-union millionaires and billionaires, but rather by how willing we are to fight for our right to have a union,” he said.
Other unions have seen an increase in membership post-Janus as well: in May, the United Federation of Teachers reported that it had just 239 nonmembers, compared to 3,000 agency-fee-payers a year earlier.
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