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Est. April 5, 2002
July 05, 2018 - Issue 749

A Federal Tax Refusal is Due
in Light of
SCOTUS Janus Decision


"Even with the problems of inequality and racism in
some unions, the union movement provided a lift to
all workers.  That's what the Janus decision is about:
stamping out even the potential power of organized
labor, because a powerful union movement means less
for the rich and corporations, while providing
a more equitable share for all workers."

Now that the supreme court has blessed the concept of free riders among American workers, is it not time to consider withholding taxes to the federal government for all Americans, on the basis of the First Amendment?

After all, the decision of the right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has elevated the concept of the parasitic free rider in union contracts to a right under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. As part of the war on workers by the rich and powerful and by Corporate America over the past several decades, a goal of theirs has been the the impoverishment of unions (the real object of their hatred) and one of the ways is to support workers who like what they have in the way of pay and benefits, but do not want to pay for any of it.

What is a “free rider?” It is a worker who is paid the same as union workers, gets the same benefits, the same health care, the same pension as union members, but does not have to pay dues. That free rider even has the right to expect the union to defend him or her, when there is a discipline involved and there are few exceptions to this rule. They get all the benefits at no expense to themselves. Consider it this way: A guest comes to a party, at which everyone is to bring a dish to pass and a few dollars to defray the extra costs. Then, that same guest, having brought empty dishes with lids, fills the dishes and takes home food even before the party is over and never drops a nickel for the coffee.

That's a free rider or parasite, as they are sometimes known in union circles. Take and never give. So it was with Mark Janus, the plaintiff, a child-support specialist for the state of Illinois, whose name will remain in the history of working Americans as one who allowed himself to be used by the oligarchs to strike a devastating blow to his fellow workers. There have been many similar attempts to chip away at the power of workers in the U.S., but they have not reached the highest court and done the greatest potential damage as Mark Janus' case. Usually, those attempts have been funded by a consortium of individual rich men and corporate organizations, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the National Association of Manufacturers. That's how a single worker can be guided through the complexity of labor law and into the judiciary system and, ultimately, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The result? Mark Janus and all of the others of his kind before him, repeat the mantra that has been prepared and handed to them: “I'm striking a blow for freedom of all workers, under the First Amendment, to refuse to pay for what I receive from my fellow workers who are in the union.” Little players in the scheme of things, Janus and the rest of the corporate tools are led to believe that what they have done is not class treason, but striking a blow for freedom...and they're proud of their treachery.

Now that SCOTUS has blessed the withholding of union dues or agency fees (or taxes, if we're speaking of a broader view of our First Amendment rights), this is the time that the same rights of all workers or all taxpayers to make the same demands of the federal government. If you feel that your rights are being abrogated by the taxes that are mostly supporting endless war and deprivation of the poor, it's time to tell the government that you are withholding tax payments and that you expect that the U.S. Supreme Court will back up your position, on the basis of “Freedom” and “First Amendment rights.” The Republican majority on the court has backed up Janus, so why not back up 100 million wage workers whose very same rights are being denied by their own politicians.

The court's majority has made living as a free rider a respectable way of living, so there needs to be a movement toward achieving that end, with the support of the court's majority, of course. This issue has been dragged through the courts ever since the enactment of the income tax law in the early part of the 20th Century and the individuals have been put down. The Janus decision casts a new light on the subject and it needs to be revisited. It's true that the mass of workers do not have the same deep pockets of the ultra-rich and Corporate America, as a way to fund the issue all the way to the Supreme Court (the only way Janus and the others who came before him could afford to see their way to the highest court), but there must be some supporters with some spare millions who would step up and support a test case, just as the powerful recruited and backed Janus in his case.

Or, it could be that the court sees this as a different principle. The right-wing majority sees the rights of workers as different from the rights of the powerful and wealthy, and the government. Basically, workers have few rights, both in their eyes and in the reality of the workplace, so it was easy for them to find Janus in the right and the rest of unionized, working America in the wrong. Never forget, the rights of workers are protected by by the U.S. Constitution and by law. As it has become clear, however, workers rights have been shunted aside every time it comes to a face-off between capital and labor.

Unions are the expression of the solidarity between and among American workers and it is that solidarity that the powers that be have been successfully destroying over the past half-century. It is always couched in this way: “We're not against workers. We just want to curb the unions that have such awesome power in the nation.” First of all, union power is the straw man that the rich and corporations have propagandized for decades and, for the most part, it has been inscribed deeply in the minds of workers everywhere, to the extent that they will vote against their own interests on a regular basis, both in the workplace and in the nation's primary and general elections. Just ask the elders among the current generation of Europeans about how effective propaganda can be. It worked there some 90 years ago amid the continent-wide rise of fascism and it works here, and the lifeblood of American workers spilled over the last century is the proof.

But, for now, back to the U.S. Supreme Court's majority opinion that we are free to pick and choose what we are obliged to support with our money. They have set the principle. They have said clearly that their decision is that the First Amendment right allows all of us to be free riders. It will take a lot of money to match Corporate America's endless supply of money that's used to kill the aspirations of workers in the name of suppressing what they falsely portray as the “awesome power” of unions.

Working men and women need to look realistically at their condition and understand that they are not the ones who are choosing their destiny now, and that has been the case for generations. They do not choose the candidates they may vote for, the two dominant parties do. They do not choose whether to join their union or not. These decisions are made for them, and don't think for a minute that control of the debate is not securely in the hands of the powerful employing class. What those rulers have been doing for a century is making the country an open shop, one in which no worker is required to join the union, or to pay an agency fee for their pay and benefits.

In his book, “Toil and Trouble: A History of American Labor,” Thomas R. Brooks a half-century ago, wrote that, during a time of tumultuous strife between labor and capital a half-century before that: “...The successful smashing of the steel strike of 1919 marked the beginning of four years of intensive union busting that ended in 1924, with a visibly shaken labor movement. Taking advantage of the hysteria left over from World War I, employers linked their drive for the open shop to Americanism. The open shop, they said, would give 'equal opportunity for all and special privileges for none.' National Association of Manufacturers president John Edgerton in 1923 solemnly declared: 'I can't conceive of any principle that is more purely American, that comes nearer representing the very essence of all those traditions and institutions that are dearest to us than the open-shop principle.'”

Such a sentiment can be easily expressed by those who sit in positions of authority and take for themselves the wealth of the nation. To do that and to amass vast fortunes, they must have a great deal of control of workers, those who produce the wealth and who pay most of the taxes. Taxes from tens of millions of workers add up to those vast fortunes. The rich have found ways to funnel that wealth into their own coffers, by tapping into those parts of government where the bulk of the money resides: military and defense, education, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the prison-industrial complex, the Postal Service, and much more. First, though, the rulers have to have significant control over the Congress and state legislatures. That, they have achieved.

They are, however, wary of a unified people, whether in the workplace or in the nation at large and that's why they use every instrument of control that they can muster: newspapers, magazines, television, radio, and the big prize, the Internet. The rich own most of these now, but the fight to control the Internet is one that is being waged now.

Growing inequality of wealth and political power is further endangering the republic every day. Statistics show that the greatest equality of income and wealth occurred about 60 years ago, when unions were at their zenith, in providing equality on the job and equality in national elections and setting government policy. Even with the problems of inequality and racism in some unions, the union movement provided a lift to all workers. That's what the Janus decision is about: stamping out even the potential power of organized labor, because a powerful union movement means less for the rich and corporations, while providing a more equitable share for all workers. A movement to withhold federal taxes would tell us whether the high court will represent all workers' rights under the First Amendment or whether they will just find another way to coddle the rich and Corporate America, as they have done in Janus and further take an ax to the union movement. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
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