At union rally Wednesday, speakers railed against the Janus verdict.  They pledged to focus on organizing and electing pro-labor candidates.
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At union rally Wednesday, speakers railed against the Janus verdict. They pledged to focus on organizing and electing pro-labor candidates.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Amy Radil

After losing Supreme Court battle, Seattle union supporters gear up for 'war'

In Seattle, labor leaders and Democrats were distressed–and defiant–over the latest U.S. Supreme Court decision suffocating public sector unions.

The ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME allows public employees to opt out of paying for collective bargaining, which could shrink union membership and political clout.

At a rally after news of the ruling broke at Harborview Medical Center, King County Executive Dow Constantine gave voice to Democrats' frustration.

“We are angry!" Constantine said. "And in November we are going to get even!”

On the other side of the political spectrum, Washington state's Freedom Foundation, a conservative thinktank, said it was “thrilled” with the ruling. The state Republican Party chalked up the conservative agenda's success to the 2016 election of Donald Trump, who replaced the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia with Justice Neil Gorsuch.

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But back at the pro-labor rally, which featured union member nurses, teachers and social workers, Harborview employee John Frazier called the court’s decision a wake-up call.

"They won a battle today," Frazier said. "The war is yet to be fought.”

He said the campaign to rebuild union power will be waged in the coming months, as union members seek to elect pro-labor candidates.

In the wake of the ruling, public sector unions have to make the case to employees that what they provide is valuable and worth supporting, Lynne Dodson with the Washington State Labor Council said.

To Dodson, the Supreme Court case helps business groups' larger deregulation strategy.

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"They’ve been very clear that they want to dismantle unions and the labor movement, that’s been the goal," Dodson said.

But Dodson maintained that these groups would not succeed. "This case is not going to do that, however," she said.

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