U.S. Bishops: No to ‘right-to-work’

In the labor movement, all eyes are on the Supreme Court and Janus v. AFSCME, where a member of the union is arguing that paying “agency fees” to pay for its services violates his freedom of speech.

If Janus wins, all of state and local government employment will be rendered “right-to-work” and unions critically weakened.

On January 19, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops weighed in with a powerful amicus brief defending the right of workers to organize and opposing Janus and “right-to-work.”

The Catholic bishops of the United States have long and consistently supported the right of workers to organize for purposes of collective bargaining. Because this right is substantially weakened by so-called “right-to-work” laws, many bishops — in their dioceses, through their state conferences, and through their national conference — have opposed or cast doubt on such laws, and no US Bishop has expressed support for them.

The petitioner asks the Court to constitutionalize the “right-to-work” position instantly, without exception, for all 50 states, almost irreversibly—in the public sector.

Rationale for this dramatic move appears designed to lay the foundation for a still more dramatic one: constitutionalizing, in a subsequent case, the “right-to-work” rule in the private sector as well.

The Bishops urged the court to decline the petition saying it should leave constitutional space for the public policy position supported for so long by so many bishops and bishop-led institutions, rather than declare still another such position outside the bounds of what policymakers are permitted to implement by law.

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