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Trump Delivers Court Brief to Defund Public Sector Unions

As promised during his campaign, Trump pushes death blow Janus v. AFSCME court case that would make union dues optional

Brian Young's picture
Dec 07, 2017

With Janus v AFSCME expected to be heard in January or February of 2018, officials on both sides are issuing briefs in support or opposition to the case. Called an amicus or friend of the court brief, they lay out why the judges should decide one way or the other. On Wednesday, Trump weighed in, issuing an amicus brief in support of Janus.

Trump’s Justice Department filed the brief saying, "In the public-sector speech in collective bargaining is necessarily speech about public issues," and "virtually every matter at stake in a public-sector labor agreement affects the public." The crux of the Janus case is whether paying free rider fees amounts to political speech for public sector unions. Janus is arguing that since public employees negotiate with political officials, any money spent on bargaining is political speech. Trump’s Justice Department went on to confirm this position saying, "Compelling employees to subsidize speech on politics and public policy imposes a severe burden that even highly restrictive prohibitions on speech in the workplace do not.”

While Trump won the election with the help of many union members in coal country and the Midwest, this brief is showing his true colors. He is supporting a case that seeks to defund public sector unions and is backed by anti-union interests like the Koch Brothers. Of course, his support for Janus shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. During the campaign, Trump made it clear that he supports Right to Work. Since he has been in office, he has constantly taken anti-union positions. He has reversed a number of pro-worker executive orders and rules that the Obama Administration implemented, put an anti-union executive from ABC on the Apprenticeship Taskforce, pushed a tax plan that will raise taxes on union families, punished federal union workers by cutting their departments budgets, and has appointed the PATCO union buster to the NLRB. Yet even with all of these anti-union moves, some union leaders like those leading North America’s Building Trades Unions have spent the last 11 months sucking up to Trump for infrastructure funding and jobs that Trump has failed to deliver on.

Trump’s amicus brief is a complete 180 from the Obama administration. While Obama’s Justice Department did not issue a brief on Janus they did issue one opposing the Friedrichs case, which was similar to Janus. In Friedrichs, the Obama administration argued that these free rider fees were in fact legal. The Friedrichs case deadlocked 4-4 after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

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