SEATTLE – Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision deals with employees working within the public sector, but the decision has also galvanized union employees in the private sector.
Dozens of people gathered at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center to rally against the ruling, saying now is the time to fight back.
They gathered with signs and shouted slogans, all to show a united front.
“That’s irrational, that’s craziness and we’ve got to get out there and organize,” said King County Councilmember Larry Gossett.
“We do ourselves no service by sugar-coating it,” said Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, “This is a major defeat for our embattled labor movement.”
City and county leaders fired up the crowd of both public- and private-sector union members – reminding everyone of the progress already made in Seattle.
“Unions are the backbone of the campaign that won $15 an hour, that won sick and safe leave, that won equal pay for equal work,” said Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda.
The Supreme Court reversed a 1977 decision that determined laws requiring public employees to pay dues and fees to unions, even if all workers did not to join, was a violation of their right to free speech.
The plaintiff in the case is an Illinois state employee, but there is some Washington involvement in the landmark decision.
“The better off working people are, the better off the country is,” said Local 17 union member Denise Krownbell.
Krownbell is shop steward at Seattle City Light and a proud member of her union. She worries the decision could have a ripple-effect on the entire workers movement.
“Our working conditions impact how we perform and if we’re not getting paid well, if we’re being discriminated against, health care issues, that all reflects the service of work we give to you,” she said.
Private-sector union workers vowed to stand firm with their public worker counterparts while local lawmakers pledged to continue fighting for better pay and working conditions.
“The Supreme Court has made some terrible decisions in the past,” said Mosqueda. “This, too, is a terrible decision and we can’t wait 50 years for this to be overturned.”
“I am angry, we are angry,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “In November (general election), we are going to get even.”