PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Hundreds of local union members rallied in downtown Pittsburgh on Monday, then marched through city streets to voice their concern over a case being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court that they believe is funded by big business and could threaten unions.
The march was organized by the Service Employees International Union. It was one of several hundred similar events held around the country.
Chanting things like “when we fight, we win” and “together we rise” union members marched down Grant Street, taking care to walk by the federal building, the county and federal courthouses, and the headquarters of UPMC, which has sparred with the SEIU in the past over organizing health care workers.
At issue is the case Janus Vs. AFSCME, which challenges the constitutionality of requiring workers who choose not to join a union to be required to pay so-called “Fair Share” fees to the union. These fees help cover the costs of collective bargaining that benefits union and non-union workers alike.
While this particular case involves public sector unions, other unions are concerned a ruling against them will cause workers to drop out of unions if they can get union benefits without paying for them.
“We’re out here as tens of thousands to rally and march across America to say we’re not going to let the Supreme Court take away our rights, dismantle our unions and roll back progress,” said SEIU leader Sam Williamson.
Conor Lamb, the Democratic candidate for Congress in the 18th District also raised concern that this case could have a widespread effect.
“We know that an attack on any one union is an attack on every union,” he said, “and an attack on any worker’s right to organize is an attack on every worker’s right to organize.”
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto predicted a ruling against unions in this case could take the labor movement back decades.
“Folks, we are going back to 1930,” the mayor told demonstrators, while pledging his continued support for unions who represent city workers. “I don’t care what (the Supreme Court justices) say, you’re going to be represented. Whether you’re the FOP, firefighters, SEIU, the laborers, we’re going to recognize and respect (unions) because we’re not going to turn back the labor movement.”
Leaders of various community organizations also marched with the unions in a show of solidarity. They included Rev. Denise Welch, pastor of Bidwell Presbyterian Church, and Vice President of the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network.
“We are here because we see this as not just a financial issue,” she told demonstrators. “This is a moral issue. This is a civil rights issue.”
The Supreme Court has taken the Janus case under advisement, and will make a ruling at a later date.