HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — SMART Transportation Division General Counsel Kevin Brodar minced no words Tuesday, Aug. 7, when describing the 5-4 Janus v. AFSCME decision written by United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito that was released this summer.
“His hate and loathing — and that’s being kind — for unions and working people drips from every page of this opinion, if that’s what you want to call it — an opinion,” Brodar said. “It’s less an opinion but more a right-wing manifesto as to how to eliminate unions.”
The 45-page Janus ruling taking away the ability of unions in the public sector to collect agency fees from “free-riders” has been an important topic at SMART TD’s Hollywood, Fla., regional meeting. In Monday’s combined opening session with Sheet Metal and TD sides in attendance, SMART General President Joseph Sellers Jr., General Secretary-Treasurer Rich McClees and TD President John Previsich all mentioned the precedent-destroying case.
Brodar, during the opening session of the second day, went into even more detail on the ruling.
“What Justice Alito tries to sell here is the two-century-old idea that unionism is just an excuse for legalized extortion,” Brodar said, holding up a printed copy of Alito’s opinion. “This case is an attack on working people. It’s an attack on all unions, not just public-sector unions. It’s an attack on this union.
“This is an attack on every one of you who goes out and does the hard work of defending the members, who goes out and does the hard work of standing against the tide of the carriers, who goes out and does the hard work of the long and tedious hours.”
Big-moneyed interests and industries have exacted a toll on workers throughout history – in injuries, blood and in some cases, human lives, Brodar said. In the early days of the labor movement, workers’ efforts to organize sometimes were met with armed responses intended to put down their resistance.
“No matter how many people were killed, however, the industrialists and the right-wingers and the conservatives and the business interests could not kill the idea of unions,” Brodar said. “They could not kill the cause because the cause is a righteous cause … You are the heirs to that fight.”
Those same forces that tried to suppress unions in the past exist today in the form of union foes such as Alito, the Koch brothers, the Federalist Society and other billionaire backers, Brodar said. This time, those enemies of labor are playing a long game with the Janus ruling being one step in their attempts to kill unions.
“Their new tactic is death from strangulation. They hope to dry up the union funds until the unions can no longer function and they just disappear and go away,” Brodar said.
The Janus decision “is essentially a green light for people to freeload” from public-sector unions, he said, and private sector unions likely will be next to be targeted.
“Look at the people sitting next to you. This affects your brothers and sisters in this room, in this union today, tomorrow,” Brodar said. “If you don’t think they are coming for the private sector, wake up and smell the coffee. That’s the next thing that is going to happen.”
Members will have to make a choice to fight back to preserve that which gives them a middle-class lifestyle, Brodar said. They can do that by educating their fellow members, their friends, neighbors and anyone else they can about what these anti-union forces are trying to accomplish through stacking the courts, trying to get right-to-work-for-less laws and other means.
“It’s up to us to respond. We can’t sit back, because if we do, we will disappear,” Brodar said. “We need to go out and educate every member every day, every way.”

SMART Transportation Division General Counsel Kevin Brodar holds up a printout of the Janus v. AFSCME decision on Tuesday, Aug. 7, at the second day of the SMART TD regional meeting in Hollywood, Fla., as TD President John Previsich, left, listens.

Strength, unity and education will be the way to fight the United States Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision last week on Janus v. AFSCME 31 that overturned more than four decades of legal precedent.
That was the message given at the opening session of the SMART Transportation Division Regional Meeting on July 1 in Seattle.
The 49-page decision written by Justice Samuel Alito and supported by the four other conservative justices eliminates the ability of public sector unions to collect agency fees from those employees who refuse to be union members, yet still receive the benefits negotiated by unions.
“Janus is something that is indicative of an anti-labor movement in certain parts of the government that they’re working very hard to take away the rights and privileges that we have worked for for a number of years,” SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich said.
SMART TD General Counsel Kevin Brodar explained to attendees the magnitude of the decision and how the conservative tilt of the court, achieved with the installation of President Donald Trump’s nominee Neil Gorsuch, poses an ongoing menace to labor.
“It is everything we thought it would be,” Brodar describe the Janus decision, written by Alito. “From every page drips his contempt for labor and unions. This is less a legal opinion as it is a right-wing manifesto against labor. That’s the sad story.
“Justice Alito and his Federalist Society conspirators are once again trying to sell the public on a two-century-old idea that organized labor is nothing more than legalized extortion. Having lost the battle of ideas over the years because unions are still here, they have taken the idea that they can strangle unions out of existence by ending their funding.”
Janus overturns the 9-0 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education made in the 1970s in which, Brodar said, “some of the heaviest hitters in the legal field” all agreed that unions had the power to collect agency fees from “free-riders,” non-paying members who still received benefits negotiated by the unions.
“This is essentially a green light to anyone who wants to stop paying unions dues in the public sector,” Brodar said. “The idea is to drain union coffers of their money, drain them of their political clout, drain them of the ability to represent their members. With that, disappears a decent wage, pension plans, health care — all gone. That’s the plan of this case.”
The Janus decision is another attack on the United States labor movement, Brodar said — the newest moment in a long line of resistance against people uniting for a common cause to improve their lives.
“This case is an attack on working people. It’s an attack not just on public sector unions, but all of us in this room. This is an attack on every member of this union,” Brodar said. “No matter how many bayonets and bullets they used, they couldn’t kill the idea. They couldn’t kill the cause. It exists today. Why is that? Because this is a righteous and just cause. And you, all of you here, are the heirs to that cause.”
The fight will continue, Brodar said, and he urged members to come together, educate themselves and be prepared to battle future efforts to weaken the power of labor and tip the scales in the favor of the carriers.
“This is not the last shot. There will be many more shots coming. It’s up to us to respond,” Brodar said.
“If this union disappears, there are dark days ahead. There are dark days right now — there will be another Supreme Court appointment who won’t be a labor-friendly guy.
“What we need is solidarity. It’s solidarity that brought us here,” Brodar said. “There’s work to be done, and it’s time.”

SMART TD General Counsel Kevin Brodar speaks out about what’s ahead for unions in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Janus v. Afcsme, overturning decades of union-favored precedent, at the opening session of the Seattle Regional Meeting, Monday, July 2.