By Community Alliance Staff
Union members and community allies alike rallied late February in Fresno to support organized labor and deter the threat to unions that could result from an anti-union Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME.
Moderated by Michael D. Evans of the Central Valley Partnership, the rally featured Riko Mendez, the chief elected officer of SEIU 521; member leaders Alva Rodriguez of SEIU 2015, Luisa Leuma of SEIU 1000, Riley Talford of SEIU 521 and David Holder of the Madera Unified Teachers Association; and Samuel Molina of Mi Familia Vota.
The SEIU family believes that wealthy special interests are using the Supreme Court to rig the system against working families in America. Those interests want to silence the voices of working people and leave workers defenseless in the workplace.
Janus v. AFSCME “hinges on a 40-year-old precedent allowing public-sector unions to charge non-members who benefit from collective bargaining,” according to P.R. Lockhart of Vox. “The outcome could affect the operations of public unions, which represent state and government employees and function as one of the strongest parts of the union movement.”
Rodriguez says the Supreme Court decision “is just the latest attempt for anti-labor extremists to rig the economy against working people. We know that they are trying to divide us, but we won’t let them.”
Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital and deserves the higher consideration.
— Abraham Lincoln
Evans noted the critical importance of unions in American society. “Much that we take for granted came about through the tremendous amount of sweat equity from our labor foremothers and forefathers.
“Through their extraordinary efforts—against odds even greater than those we face today—we got the eight-hour workday, the 40-hour workweek, overtime pay, health insurance, paid vacations, pensions, child labor laws, pregnancy and parent leave rights, workers’ compensation and, yes, the right to strike.”
“We have a thriving middle class today because of organized labor,” added Evans.
“The people who are funding these attacks against us are not workers like us; they are millionaires and billionaires,” says Mendez. “And they’re saying things like right to work and freedom of choice and freedom of speech. If they really cared about those t h ings, t h ey would be supporting unions, not attacking them.”
“They will fail,” notes Simone Cranston- Rhodes, an organizer with SEIU 521. “They’re trying to divide us, muffle our voices and wrestle away our power.”
“Our union is under attack from people who have no concern about our families, our lives and our jobs,” said Leuma. “The billionaires pushing this right-to-work agenda are doing it for their own profit at our expense. No court case will silence our voices.”
“It’s up to us to fight back,” states Mendez. “The true power of the union is the members and community coming together on the ground right here in places like Fresno.”
“We rise against these attacks on America’s workers,” said Evans. “We demand that all three branches of government stand up for the good union jobs that make our society a better place and make the American dream possible.”
“We’re going to stand together,” says Talford. “We’re not going anywhere.”
“We are the last bastion that keeps [the wealthy interests] from taking over the entire economy,” says Mendez. “Some court case in the Supreme Court— that’s not enough to take us out. We are way too strong.”