After a huge election year like 2020, many of us are not even thinking about the next election cycle. And if we are‚ it is because we are being bombarded by campaigns gearing up for the 2022 midterm elections. We have an election happening in November here in Pennsylvania that is crucial for voters to keep their eyes on, especially if they are part of organized labor.
Like the ones happening this November, judicial elections have an outsized effect on everyone’s lives here in the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania voters this year will elect new judges to the Commonwealth’s three statewide appellate courts.
There are four Democrats and four Republicans vying for four open seats in a 10-year term. Additionally, there are open seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, two on the Commonwealth Court, and one on the State Superior Court.
Some of the country’s most controversial decisions are coming out of courts and affecting states across the nation. Decisions on mask mandates, election audits, and school funding are expected to come down the pipeline soon, putting everyone in the Commonwealth’s future on the line.
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Crucially, we elect judges to make decisions on human rights and our rights as workers. As a union member, the outcome of judicial elections means the difference between a potentially unfriendly judge to labor and labor practices and a judge who recognizes that human rights extend into the workplace.
After Janus v. AFSCME, a Supreme Court decision allowed public-sector employees to discontinue paying their union dues or fees, leading to “some public-sector employees benefitting from the wages and conditions their unions negotiate without paying for the cost of that work.”
The Janus decision is just one example of how judicial decisions can have lasting impacts on labor here in Pennsylvania. Since that decision, over a dozen cases have been brought against unions representing Pennsylvania public employees. Moreover, while many of them have been ultimately unsuccessful; this sets a dangerous precedent for unions.
We have to stay focused and turn out if we want to keep not only our rights as workers strong, but if we want to uphold the values and rights that mean the most to us as Pennsylvanians.
As the president of the largest health care union in Philadelphia, District 1199C, I know firsthand the impact that judicial elections can have on the rights of our members. After the Janus decision, like many unions across the country, our union was afraid that this decision would impact our ability to fight for workers’ rights. Instead, it has helped to motivate our members, and our membership has increased since this decision.
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With all this in mind, it is a shame that only 20 percent of voters turn out for judicial elections, compared “with more than 70 percent turnout in 2020’s record-setting election.” For us union members, we must turn out this November to make sure judges are making decisions that keep unions strong.
Even if you are not a part of organized labor, these upcoming judicial elections in Pennsylvania are crucial. Elections do not have off years, and with the news cycle constantly bombarding us with national stories, it is easy to forget what is happening here at home. We have to stay focused and turn out if we want to keep not only our rights as workers strong, but if we want to uphold the values and rights that mean the most to us as Pennsylvanians.
Chris Woods is the president of AFSCME District 1199C, where he represents more than 13,000 workers in all fields in major health care institutions in the region.
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Header photo by Chelsea Bland / AFGE / Flickr