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SEIU Workers and Union Leaders Respond to Janus v. AFSCME Opening Arguments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 26, 2018

The Janus v. AFSCME case is the latest in well-funded attacks by corporate-funded special interests to roll back wages, benefits and working conditions.

Washington, D.C., Today, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Janus v AFSCME a case that could rollback progress for millions of workers. On Saturday, workers and allies in Philadelphia kicked off a series of statewide actions to fight back, culminating with nearly forty actions throughout the state today, from Pittsburgh to Allentown, Altoona to Beaver . SEIU members and leaders are sounding off on  the profound implications of this court case and the agenda of wealthy special interests who are orchestrating and funding attacks on working people.

Charnel Brownlee, a school bus driver for the Philadelphia School District and 32BJ SEIU member:

“It is because of the union that we work a 40 hour work week and not an 80 work week. Collective bargaining allows us to have a living wage and benefits so we can support our communities.  We are determined that no matter what decision the Supreme Court rules, we will stand together.”

Ernestine Ratcliff, a CNA at Soldiers and Sailors and Guardian Elder Care in Erie and member of SEIU Healthcare PA:

“In my nursing home, having a union means having power to advocate for ourselves and for our residents. If we don’t have the supplies we need, or the heat doesn’t work right, we can step in and demand management makes it right. Without a protected voice at work, caregivers like me can’t stand up for what’s right without fear of retaliation.”

Tiffany White, Caseworker at a Philadelphia County Assistance Office and member of SEIU Local 668

“Our union makes sure I can provide for my family, that I can advocate for quality services for Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens, and that I can advocate against corporations looking to privatize our work and diminish the quality of service the public receives. My co-workers and I will stand with our union no matter what anti-worker forces throw at us.”

Matt Yarnell, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania:

“The outcome of the Janus case will have immediate, far-reaching effects on working people’s ability to make sure that the economy benefits everyone, not just those few at the top. By stripping people of their rights, Janus has the very real potential to set working Americans back decades, not just in terms of wages and benefits, but also basic fairness and safety on the job.”

Gabe Morgan, Vice President, 32BJ SEIU & President of the Pennsylvania SEIU State Council.

“Working people deserve the same freedom that corporate CEOs have. They deserve the freedom to stick together and negotiate a fair deal so that they can support their families. Billionaires didn’t give us the eight hour day, the weekend, or Social Security; in fact, they’ve continually invested their fortunes and used their political influence to roll back our rights.”

Steve Catanese, President of SEIU Local 668

“This case is the end-result of an attack on working families, orchestrated by corporate special interests. This is an effort to undermine the rights of working people to organize and collectively bargain that could make it easier for corporations and their legislative allies to roll back the hard-fought gains that workers have fought and bled for: the eight hour work day and five-day work week, worker safety regulations, the minimum wage, and many more.”


Though it targets public sector workers’ organizations, Janus would set the stage for nationwide anti-worker policies that have been proven to lower job standards and hurt communities. In states like Wisconsin that already have similar anti-worker legislation on the books:

  • Average wages dropped $3.27/hour;
  • Poverty increased by 12%;
  • Health benefits decreased by 21%; and
  • Workplace fatalities jumped by an incredible 51%.

Wealthy special interests like the National Right to Work Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center developed and bankrolled this case, using a single Illinois state worker to front their attacks on union rights for millions.These groups are part of a network of right-wing think tanks and litigation firms funded by billionaires and corporate CEOs who use their massive fortunes to rig the economy by attacking the rights of working people. So far, these groups have spent more than $80 million to push the case and are preparing to spend more to create a cheap and pliable workforce in the United States.

Today’s Supreme Court hearing is the latest legal effort to weaken unions financially. In Janus v. AFSCME, plaintiffs seek to reverse a 40-year-old precedent which established that requiring non-members to pay “fair-share” fees does not violate the First Amendment.

How Today’s Unions Help Working People: Giving workers the power to improve their jobs and unrig our economy and politics, Keystone Research Center: In Pennsylvania, unions represent more than one in every eight workers, a total of 723,000.[iii] These numbers make organized labor one of the largest institutions in our nation and our state.

Despite the Janus threat, working people refuse to allow any court case to deny them the ability to care for their families and communities. That’s why, on Saturday, February 24 and Monday, February 26 thousands of Pennsylvania workers and allies are organizing a series of statewide actions to speak out against the case and send a strong message that no court case will limit their voice and power.


Service Employees International Union: With over 2.1 million members worldwide, the Service Employees International Union is dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society. In Pennsylvania, SEIU represents nearly 80,000 workers in the areas of health care, public services, property services, school employees, laundry and distribution.




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