Joined by other union workers, allies and elected leaders, caregivers respond to Janus vs. AFSCME oral arguments by pledging to stick together and demonstrating why America needs union jobs.
On the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing the Janus v. AFSCME case which could strip workers’ rights to organize in their unions, thousands of SEIU members marched through the streets, rallied at courthouses, and spoke out about the strength and power they have through their union. The caregivers also called on state and federal elected officials to stand with working people.
“Now more than ever, America needs union jobs,” said Darlene McDonald, who has worked at Washington Hospital in Southwestern PA for 40 years and was joined by dozens of supporters on the steps of the County courthouse. “Companies will always push as far as they can to see what they can get away with. But through our union, we have strength and the power to fight back.”
It all started in Philadelphia on February 24th, where 700 SEIU members marched through Center City to join thousands of union members from AFSCME, PSEA, UFCW, PFT, and others at the Thomas Paine Plaza — showing the world that no court case is going to take away their union. We were honored to be joined by SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, who not only spoke in front of thousands of union members, and joined SEIU members for –what else – cheesesteaks. The event was covered by the Inquirer, KYW-AM, Fox 29, PHL 17, and ABC 6.
“I believe everyone should have an equal opportunity to better their lives, and we should not be undermined by the companies we work for,” said Omar Smith, who works at Chestnut Hill Hospital. “That’s why I am going to keep fighting for my union.”
On February 26th, 400 union members, including hospital workers from UPMC, Healthcare PA members from Central Blood Bank and RNs from UPMC WPIC, marched through downtown Pittsburgh. The marchers were joined by candidate for (current) Congressional District 18 Conor Lamb and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who have been outspoken in their commitment to support working people.
In Westmoreland County, caregivers from the Westmoreland Manor county home were joined by local private nursing home workers to lift up the importance of their collective voice in the healthcare industry.
“We should always be allowed to fight for changes that improve our nursing homes and resident care without fear of punishment,” said Stefanie Henry, unit clerk and certified aide at Westmoreland Manor. “Working people need more opportunities to join unions, not fewer.”
More on the Westmoreland event can be found here.
In Reading, CNA Cheila Martinez expressed frustration with corporations’ continued attacks on hardworking Americans.
“If this Supreme Court case goes the wrong way, it will be a domino effect. From public to private sector, employers will get the message that they don’t need to honor union contracts and will try to trample our rights,” she said. Then added, there is hope. “But as union members, we know the power of working together.”
The events in Pennsylvania were part of more than 300 across the nation to send the message that working people won’t be deterred by a lawsuit driven by anti-worker CEOs and billionaires to divide them and limit people’s power in numbers. This comes as a new report from the Economic Policy Institute investigates how a small group of foundations with “ties to the largest and most powerful corporate lobbies” has bankrolled this Supreme Court case and other attacks on working people.
“Workers need to watch what is happening because anti-worker legislation has been spreading around the country,” said Eric Szopacs, a CNA in Allentown. “And in places where that legislation has been enacted, workers earn less and have far fewer protections because their voices are now denied legally.”
The Allentown group was met by reporters from WFMZ and the Allentown Morning Call.
Workers have vowed to stick together no matter the result of the Supreme Court case and fight for even more good, union jobs that can provide financial security for families, strengthen communities and boost the economy.
“America needs unions for economic security and to fight for safe workplaces that benefit employees and consumers,” said Helen Noel, a CNA from Western PA. “We will not be stopped and refuse to go back to the days when we were not legally allowed to protect our rights.”
In the Post-Gazette this weekend, Governor Wolf and Mayors Bill Peduto and Jim Kenny wrote, “We need unions because the American Dream – once a reachable promise for most who work hard and play by the rules – has become elusive for far too many Americans….Here in Pennsylvania, we are going to fight for working families. That means pushing for policies such as raising the minimum wage, providing all workers with sick days and adequately funding education. It also means fighting for the right for workers to organize and join a union that will make sure their voices are heard.”
Workers and elected officials pointed to research that finds while 42 percent of all U.S. workers are paid less than $15 an hour, workers in unions are paid 10 to 20 percent more than workers in similar, but non-union, jobs. According to a paper by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the difference is even greater for Black workers with Black women in unions earning 37 percent more than non-union workers and Black men earning 35 percent more.