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L.A. union leaders slam Supreme Court ruling

L.A. union leaders slam Supreme Court ruling
Service Employees International Union Local 721 President Bob Schoonover, shown addressing the Los Angeles City Council in 2012, criticized a Supreme Court ruling that targeted union fees and dues. (Los Angeles Times)

Union leaders and local politicians in Los Angeles criticized a Supreme Court ruling Wednesday that found public employees cannot be forced to pay dues or fees to support their unions.

The ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME strikes down laws in California and 21 other mostly Democratic-leaning states that allow unions to negotiate contracts that require all employees to pay a fee to cover the cost of collective bargaining.

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The ruling marks a win for businesses that oppose unions. It also threatens both funding and membership for unions, which oppose “right to work” laws prohibiting unions from compelling employees to pay membership dues.

Responding to the court’s ruling, the president of Southern California’s largest public-sector union, Service Employees International Union Local 721, vowed to “stay union-strong.”

The union represents more than 95,000 service workers, including those who work in hospitals, foster care, beach maintenance and parks services.

“D.C. doesn’t decide for us — and we’re sticking with the union,” Bob Schoonover said in a statement. “In every so-called right-to-work state in America, living standards are worse for workers and we simply are not going to let that become a reality for us.”

Schoonover described the Janus case as a “billionaire-driven effort to rig the system against America’s working families and destroy the nation’s middle class” and pointed out that many hard-fought union victories, including the 40-hour work week and $15 minimum wage, have also benefited non-union workers.

Rusty Hicks, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said the court “made a decision big employers hope will weaken our unions.”

But when “workers can choose — without fear or threat — to either stay in their union or leave it, they will choose to earn higher wages, protect their benefits and keep their workplaces safe,” he said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who negotiates with city unions, said in a statement that the ruling “overturns decades of sound legal precedent that supported a stable collective bargaining system for the city workers who deliver our most basic services.”

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