Oakland Responds To Supreme Court’s Janus Decision To Strip Unions Of Ability To Finance Themselves

Oakland, California has been a “union town” for as far back as I can remember, and I’ve been in Oakland since April 8th of 1974. You can’t build anything in Oakland, or have any hope of getting elected, without the backing and involvement of unions. And over time, even the City of Oakland’s own workers have formed unions, like Local 21.

Now, after today’s United States Supreme Court Janus decision (and ironically just one day after SCOTUS voted 5-4 to uphold President Trump’s racist and muslim – focused Travel Ban) the very existence of unions is threatened because their ability to gain money from the work of bargaining for workers rights has been taken away. In a city like Oakland, with housing costs so high that some working Oaklanders are now homeless, the Supreme Court Janus decision pretty much assured that union representatives have to be concerned about their ability to do their jobs, and keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.

The reactions to the Supreme Court Janus decision among elected officials in California has been swift.

U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee issued this statement on Twiter: “The #Janus decision is disgraceful. SCOTUS has weakened workers’ rights and further rigged the system for greedy special interests. Labor unions give workers a collective voice to gain higher wages, better health care, and a secure retirement. That why I’m #UnionProud.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra‏ on Twitter tweeted said “We are disappointed in today’s ruling in Janus, a case about defending the interests of working people. #SCOTUS decision threatens the ability of workers to effectively engage in collective bargaining & of states to manage our workforces.”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf sent this statement via messenger:

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision ultimately dilutes the power of working people. This Court appears intent on undoing years of gains made on behalf of working families, women, people of color, and immigrants. In Oakland, we will continue to fight for an equitable society, and one where all residents – particularly our most vulnerable – are represented fairly by the laws of our Constitution.”

Oakland District Two Councilmember Abel Guillen has said this on Twitter:

Despite today’s @SCOTUS Janus ruling that hampers the ability of labor #unions to get fair contracts, we will continue to say Union YES & Fascism No! It’s yet another sad, stark reminder that we need the power to select justices for the people by electing Democrats to DC. #1u

And Guillen tweeted “Janus v. AFSCME ruling means unions that represent state/local gov workers must operate under “right to work“ rules. Unions can’t recoup from union non-members their share of collective bargaining costs, even though union must represent all members of bargaining unit.”

And Oakland District One Councilmember Dan Kalb tweeted this “Disturbing and blatantly unfair 5-4 SCOTUS decision on Janus v @AFSCME May lead to confusion for workers and local/state govts on who represents whom. GOP goal is to weaken political power of working men & women.“

Oakland Councilmember Kaplan Supports Unions
Oakland Councilmember Kaplan Supports Unions

Oakland At-Large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan sent this statement:


Today, the Supreme Court ruled against the needs of workers to have effective representation, by issuing a ruling in the  Janus case to overturn Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977). This action, by the Supreme Court that was stacked with a more right-wing majority by the blockade on President Obama’s last nominee, will weaken unions’ power to effectively negotiate on behalf of all public sector workers, including to promote policies that protect workers’ rights, fair wages, and safer working conditions.
As a life-long supporter of the rights of workers, I am concerned that this will hurt those who most need the protections. Today, we see financial struggles rising, including personal bankruptcies and the number of unhoused people at an all-time high. Without the appropriate negotiation power to fight for worker protections, we may see these numbers climb higher and at a faster rate. Also, it is important that people are able to afford to live in the cities in which they work, send their children to school, and have adequate healthcare and pensions available to them. That is why as the city-wide Councilmember in Oakland, I am urging that we stand in solidarity with our workers and our unions, and I ask the Oakland City Council to pass my Resolution for the City of Oakland to continue working with public sector unions to respond to the problems raised by the Janus decision.”


The Oakland City Council’s Rules and Legislation Committee will hear Councilmember Kaplan’s Resolution, co-sponsored by Councilmembers Noel Gallo (District Five) and Dan Kalb (District One), Thursday in the Council Chambers, starting at 10:45am.

And Councilmember Kaplan just followed up by sending this statement on the Supreme Court and autocratic power:


A reminder from Masha Gessen about autocracy – more important this week as we’ve now lost the Court as an institution that could check autocratic power….

“Rule #3: Institutions will not save you. It took Putin a year to take over the Russian media and four years to dismantle its electoral system; the judiciary collapsed unnoticed. The capture of institutions in Turkey has been carried out even faster, by a man once celebrated as the democrat to lead Turkey into the EU. Poland has in less than a year undone half of a quarter century’s accomplishments in building a constitutional democracy.”


Oakland District Six Councilmember Desley Brooks simply said “I stand with Labor!

California Assembly District 15 Candidate Jovanka Beckles wrote this:

“As a dues-paying public sector union member myself and in defense of all workers’ right to organize, I deplore the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today to overturn a four-decade old precedent and dramatically curtail the power of the country’s public unions,” Beckles said.

“In a 5-4 ruling the court said that government workers may not be required to help pay for collective bargaining, driving a wedge into union solidarity.”

Beckles continued “This means that public-sector unions across the nation, specifically the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), could lose millions of dollars and see their effectiveness curtailed.

“I agree with Elena Kagan’s minority statement that this ruling “prevents the American people, acting through their state and local officials, from making important choices about workplace governance. And it does so by weaponizing the First Amendment, in a way that unleashes judges, now and in the future, to intervene in economic and regulatory policy.

“I have a long history of defending union organizing rights. As a strong voice for labor in Sacramento I will continue that work. It is one reason I have so many unions endorsing my campaign. Some of these are:

American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees Local (AFSCME) 3299

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 192

Berkeley Council of Classified Employees (BCCE), Local 6192

California Federation of Teachers (CFT)

Engineers & Scientists of California, Local 20, IFPTE AFL-CIO/CLC

National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW)

Service Employees International Union, SEIU-CA

Teamsters Joint Council 7

Teamsters Local 315

Teamsters Local 856

United Teachers of Richmond (UTR)

University Professional and Technical Employees, Communication Workers of America (UPTE-CWA) Local 9119

As Congresswoman Barbara Lee says: “Labor unions give workers a collective voice to gain higher wages, better health care, and a secure retirement.”

Stay tuned. This will be updated as more comments come in.

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