Silicon Valley Workers Rally for Union Rights as U.S. Supreme Court Hears Janus v. AFSCME

Silicon Valley workers rallied on Monday in support of organized labor as a divided U.S. Supreme Court sparred over a case that threatens to undermine the financial footing of public sector unions.

The SEIU Local 521 gathered outside the Santa Clara County Government Center as part of a nationwide show of solidarity for the labor movement as justices heard arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, a challenge to an Illinois law that allows unions to collect fees from non-members.

“The Janus case is an attack on working families that will allow employers to lower wages and take bigger profits,” South Bay Labor Council Executive Officer Ben Field declared ahead of the #WeRise rally. “We need more good union jobs if we want to rebuild the middle class. The Janus case threatens to be a big step in the wrong direction.”

The plaintiff, an Illinois state workers named Mark Janus, argues that he has a First Amendment right to opt out of paying a union that bargains on his behalf. Experts say the case could strike a mortal blow to public employee unions and, by extension, Democratic Party coffers.

The court split 4-4 when it considered the issue in 2016 after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court last spring, and has yet to weigh in on the matter. A decision in the case is expected no later than June.

Derecka Mehrens, head of Silicon Valley’s pro-labor Working Partnerships USA, said public employees need stronger representation now more than ever.

“Regardless of the outcome of this case, Working Partnerships will stand with working people and their unions,” she said in a press release on Monday. “Instead of making it more difficult to join together, we as a nation should be making it easier for people to use their power in numbers. We urge elected leaders to take action to create more good, union jobs that our communities need.”

Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese echoed her sentiment.

“I want the working people of Santa Clara County to know that I am against this attempt today to use the highest court in the land to further rig the rules of the economy,” he said in a prepared statement on Monday. “County workers provide services to the most vulnerable in our community.  Instead of trying to make it more difficult for working people to use their power in numbers, we should be making it easier to join together in unions, so that they can continue their work of improving the lives of county residents.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. It seems to me that if a Union worker gets to decide what to do with the money they earn that would be a good thing, right? Who would be against that? Except maybe the people that are currently taking the money that is.

  2. Ten people in the picture.

    I never cease to be amused by the photo trickery of progressive “activists”.

    Could the black female purple-shirt spokesman be a “crisis actor” from central casting?

    (Ooooops! Can’t say “crisis actor”. There goes my YouTube posting privileges.)

  3. BenField, executive officer of SBLC, was suspended from the practice of law for four years in 2010, due to four counts of unethical behavior while he was a DA.
    Cortese’s staement doesn’t even address the issue before the court.
    If unions are so great for the workers, why are only 6% of private sector workers nationwide in a union? For public sector employees it’s 33%. That 33% is Is driving many cities and counties toward bankruptcy with their defined benefit pensions and work rules that require 2-3 employees be assigned to do the same job that one worker in the private sector does.

  4. The single worst disaster to ever hit CA was in 1977 when then Gov J Brown signed the Dill Act – giving public employees the right to have public employee unions. Today the state is nearing a $TRILLION deficit because of the political B*tt F*cking the Public Employee unions are doing to the State of Ca. In the last 40 + year – one political party has mostly ruled this state (you know who you are) and they have taken California from the Golden State to the garbage state- – – am I wrong?
    Take our fair city as just a microcosm of the state. Here we are — the “Capitol of Silicon Valley” (woooeee) and we’re in the middle of an economic boom and San Jose has a $40mm budget deficit – -and we’re in GOOD TIMES !!! How can that be?
    Will someone please post the reason for this? Is it just bad luck? We didn’t pay the PGE bill? the divorce settlement check didn’t arrive? Why are we in the hole so deep?

    • Hugh,
      It’s because local politicians would rather continue to waste money on feel good social programs that HAVE NEVER WORKED than fill potholes and keep the rest of the infrastructure in good repair. They want government to coddle us from cradle to grave, which has resulted in a society in which over 50% of the population receives some sort of government assistance. And all of that is managed by a bunch of government employees who are often little more than parasites feeding from the public trough and who work hardest at keeping their jobs by proposing more so-called solutions that are doomed to failure. Then there’s the other money wasters, like the memorial for SJPD officers killed in the line of duty. It’s a wonderful idea, and long overdue. However, the cost of $450k for an 8-foot-by-8-foot piece of glass with a black ribbon is a monumental waste of money. How in heaven’s name can such a memorial cost more than $75k? Only in government can such an obscene occur. It reminds me of the $750 hammers the DOD paid for three decades ago.

  5. I am confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will side with Mark Janus and protect the 1st Amendment rights of the thousands of public employees who currently have been stripped of their constitutional right to freedom of speech by public employee unions.
    As a former unwilling due payer of SEIU, I can unequivocally state that the tactics they use to maintain membership are not that dissimilar to those currently used by religious fanatical groups such as the Church of Scientology or terrorist groups such as ISIS.
    Career politicians commenting in this article and promoting these Unions and their unconstitutional tactics either have no backbone, no sense of moral conviction, or just could care less where their campaign funds are derived. What a pity for America!

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