US Bishops: No to Janus, 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.

Petitioner invites this Court to constitutionalize the “right-to-work” position—instantly, without exception, for all fifty states, almost irreversibly—in the public sector. Petitioner’s proposed 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 Court should decline this invitation. 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.

As a sign of how seriously the Bishops are taking this matter, the brief compares Janus to Roe v. Wade – another Supreme Court decision that declared Church teaching unconstitutional. Congratulations to the Bishops for their courageous stand on behalf of workers and the right to organize! To read the amicus brief in its entirety, CLICK HERE.

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