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Chicago Sun-Times Editorial: One Year Later, Janus Decision Still Hasn’t Hurt Unions

Published Friday, July 5, 2019
by The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board
Chicago Sun-Times Editorial: One Year Later, Janus Decision Still Hasn’t Hurt Unions

A year after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that threatened to cripple Public Sector Unions, they seem to be holding their own.

Government Employees, it turns out, see value in belonging to Unions.

Membership in Illinois Government Unions actually has increased a year after the June 27th, 2018, ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME, as Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet reported in a recent column.

The new Members’ dues are offsetting any revenue loss caused by the Janus decision, which allows Government Workers to no longer have to pay “Fair-Share Fees” to Unions.

Before the ruling, Unions were allowed to collect such fees from Non-Member Government Employees to cover the costs of collective bargaining and related expenses.

Organized Labor has reason to celebrate.

It’s holding its own against ultra-conservative and corporate Union Busters.

But Labor might want to wait before throwing a party.

It’s been only a year and the stakes are growing higher.

An ever-rising tide of Income Inequality in the United States is creating an economically upside-down society that increasingly works for only a lucky few.

We are, already, a Nation in which just one-tenth of 1% of the population controls nearly 20% of the wealth.

As U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said during the first Democratic Presidential Debate: “Who is this economy really working for?  It’s doing great, for a thinner and thinner slice at the top.”

The day before the debate, the National AFL-CIO released an eye-opening analysis of the pay gap between CEOs and their Workers.

We saw, once again, astonishing evidence of the deep inequality that runs counter to a healthy merit-based capitalist system.

It’s a pay gap that rivals the Grand Canyon.

CEOs in the United States are doing better than ever, thanks to huge salaries, bonuses and stock options.

The average Employee, not so much.

Last year, the CEO of a large S&P 500 company was paid, on average, 287 times more than the average Worker.

The CEO took home an average of $14.5 million, $500,000 more than in 2017.

The average Worker was paid $39,888.

Illinois Workers did better than the national average, but only a bit.

The average Illinois CEO last year earned 275 to 137 times more than the average Worker (You can explore all numbers in detail at

But perhaps it is necessary, as defenders of such inequities like to say, to pay America’s CEOs this kind of dough to hire and keep the best and the brightest.

If so, a lot of big companies in Europe and Asia must be settling for slackers.

In 2016, the CEOs of publicly traded companies in the United States were paid about 265 times more than the average Worker.

In the United Kingdom, that ratio was 201.

In Canada, it was 149.

In Germany, it was 136.

And in Japan, it was a mere 58.

The Janus case and other legal challenges to Organized Labor “are happening at a time when concentrations of wealth are as extreme as they were back in the pre-Great Depression era,” Labor Professor Robert Bruno, of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, told us.

“The issue of income inequality is front and center in debates among Labor Economists, politicians, in State Legislatures - they’re all addressing it.  Unions are the dominant entity representing Middle-Class interests,” Bruno said.

There is no better time, then, for Unions to work overtime to prove why those dues pay for themselves, and then some.

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