The Canadian Union of Public Employees is disappointed in today’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), arguing it weakens the power of workers everywhere.

The US Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled to strip labour unions of their ability to collect “agency fees.” Agency fees are like union dues for workers who benefit from collective agreements but who never signed a union card. Twenty-two states currently allow public sector unions to charge agency fees.

“This decision will reduce the ability of unions to organize and bargain on behalf of millions of American workers,” said CUPE National President Mark Hancock. “More importantly, it will starve unions of the resources they need to carry out important advocacy and social justice work that has always been at the core of our work in the labour movement.”

In effect, the decision could turn the public sector into a “right-to-work” zone across the United States. Right-to-work laws make it harder for workers to unionize and bargain collectively for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Poverty rates are significantly higher and wages are 3.1 per cent lower on average for workers in states that have right-to-work laws.

Janus v. AFSCME has implications for millions of American workers, especially for women, who make up fifty-eight per cent of the public sector workforce. It is also a serious setback for minority groups, for whom union employment in the public sector has historically been a critical stepping stone into the middle class.

“This is a step in the wrong direction. While we are disappointed by this decision, we will not be discouraged,” said CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury. “Along with AFSCME, we will continue our collective fight for better wages and working conditions and a better life for all workers across Canada and the United States.”

Hancock pledged that CUPE will step up its activities to raise awareness about the harm that right-to-work legislation can have on workers, society, and the economy in Canada. “All 650,000 members of CUPE will stand strong against any government that tries to attack our labour movement and take away our rights,” said Hancock.