The Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision is the product of a 40-year campaign by billionaires like the Koch brothers, in cahoots with anti-labor politicians, to eviscerate public-sector unions. At Rutgers, as in the rest of New Jersey, public-sector employees who currently pay 85 percent of membership dues because they benefit from the contracts that unions bargain will no longer have to pay anything. They will become “free-riders” who benefit from the gains while leaving the costs to others.
Rutgers AAUP-AFT president Deepa Kumar says, “The Janus decision is not just an attack on public-sector workers. It is an attack on public education and indeed on the very idea of the public and the common good. This decision is a reflection of the new gilded age we live in, in which the 1% grow ever richer at the expense of the rest of us, who have to struggle harder and harder just to get by.”
The pay and working conditions of our 8,000 full- and part-time faculty, graduate employees, postdocs and counsellors will be weakened by this decision only if our membership does not remain strong and continue to grow. One independent analysis suggests that if we don’t retain enough union members, our higher salaries in New Jersey could decrease by an annual amount as much as 3.7% (Figure 6), meaning that those who choose to give themselves a marginal increase by quitting their union will discover it is the most expensive “raise” they ever get.
Since 1970, our union has fought and won workload limits, paid sabbaticals, annual raises, due process in employment disputes, greater equity for faculty of color and women and so much more. We resolve to stand our ground in a post-Janus environment because our best defense in the face of attacks on tenure, academic freedom, and public higher education is a united academic workforce that fights for the Rutgers we all deserve.