Pinkertons were employed by the strike-breaking Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Millionaire Andrew Carnegie, owner of the Homestead steel plant, hired the Pinkertons to break the strike of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (AAISW). The Homestead Massacre resulted. The AAISW negotiated exceptional wages and work rules in previous negotiations, significantly higher than any other mill in the country. Carnegie and his chairman, Henry Frick, were determined to silence the union’s voice. The Carnegie Steel Co. made massive record profits of over $4.5 million, just before the strike in 1892. Carnegie demanded wage cuts. The union argued pay cuts were taken three years prior.
Frick hired the Pinkertons, as was a common practice when battling unions, to break the strike. The Pinkertons, at one time, had a larger force than the entire U.S. Army. Frick plotted to sneak in 300 Pinkertons on barges. Thousands of workers and their families rushed to the river to keep them out. Gunfire broke out and the Pinkertons surrendered. Seven workers and three Pinkertons died. Four days later Frick requested the National Guard to take over the town and Frick refused to negotiate with the union. Wages decreased by one-fifth and shifts were increased from 8 to 12 hours.
Although their methods differ and a century of labor laws were enacted, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency and the U.S. Supreme Court continue a union-busting campaign. The Supreme Court’s anti-union decisions are as vicious and destructive as the physical violence and intimidation of the Pinkertons.
The Supreme Court’s decision in 2018 of Janus v. AFSCME overturned a 41 year precedent Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. The Supreme Court ruled in Abood labor unions had the constitutional right to charge non-members a “fair share fee” for services the union provides in which non-members benefit. These fees deferred the cost of grievance processing and contract negotiation incurred and paid for by membership dues.
The Janus v. AFSCME lawsuit claimed that “fair share” fees are a violation of a person’s “free speech” rights guaranteed in the 1st Amendment. Mark Janus was recruited to lend his name to the lawsuit. Bruce Rauner, the billionaire governor of Illinois, originally filed the lawsuit bankrolled by big-money special interest groups to attack public sector labor unions. The courts ruled Rauner had no standing to file this lawsuit, prompting a search for a surrogate with standing to sue. Mark Janus, a child support specialist at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services with a yearly salary of $71,000, was an eager and willing volunteer. The Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund bankrolled and provided free legal representation all the way to the Supreme Court. Supreme Court Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Gorsuch, Thomas and New Jersey native Alito ruled in favor of Janus by a vote of 5 to 4. The L.A. Times stated, “Alito has become the leading spear carrier ...” in the union-busting campaign following the death of Justice Scalia. The Citizens United decision was passed by a 5 to 4 vote by the same justices with the exception of Scalia’s replacement Gorsuch.
Justice Kagan, in her minority response, stated the decision weaponized the 1st Amendment.
Citizens United coined the phrase “Corporations are people” and therefore covered by the 1st Amendment. The decision overturned the restrictions of corporate financial contributions to political candidates limited by campaign finance laws.
The Janus and Citizens rulings defy logic and reason and debunk the belief Supreme Court justices are brilliant legal minds, exceptional Constitution scholars, reasonable, compassionate and sensible.
Janus claimed his fare share fees were allocated to political candidates he disapproved. Mark Janus complained he didn’t need a union. He wanted to contribute to an IRA rather than the pension negotiated. Two months after he won, he retired (collecting the annuities negotiated by dues paying union members) then slithered over to the Illinois Policy Institute to accept a senior fellow position.
I dream of the day the Supreme Court grants his request to self-represent and negotiate a contract. Janus and his ilk behave like that relative or friend who desperately needs the restroom or exclaims, “Oh no! I forgot my wallet,” perfectly coordinated with the server’s presentation of the bill.
Readers of “Kochland the Secret History of Koch Industries,” by Christopher Leonard, will realize how evil and powerful Koch Industries is.
N.J. Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, and Rep. Bill Pascrell, joined Gov. Phil Murphy in condemning the Janus decision.
Bill Shutz, of Seaville, is president of Cape Atlantic Area Local 3617 of the American Postal Workers Union.