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Posts tagged ‘unions’

In the Face of Supreme Court Ruling, Teachers, Union Members Vow to Stand Strong

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Manchester Education Association President Kate Dias, surrounded by representatives of numerous unions, calls today’s Supreme Court decision a rallying cry.

The U.S. Supreme Court today turned its back on teachers and other union members with a ruling in a case—Janus v. AFSCME—aimed at stripping away their collective voice and freedoms.

Union members are not taking the threat lying down.

In a press conference and rally this afternoon, they vowed to stand strong and fight back against the latest attack on their freedom and their right to collectively bargain.

United we stand
Manchester High School math teacher Kate Dias, president of the Manchester Education Association, led off the rally by reminding those gathered, “The union has long been the vehicle for workers, like teachers, to grow and have power—the power to negotiate a living wage, to influence working conditions, to speak for our students, and to fight for more funding for our public schools, the greatest social equalizer this country has ever had.”

To resounding applause, she declared, “This court decision isn’t a silencing act—it’s a rallying cry!”

Paraeducator Shellye Davis, co-president of AFT Local 2221, added, “For more than a century, solidarity is what drove our labor movement to make sure that capitalism actually works for working people—not just the top one percent. Through it all, our unions have faced unrelenting attacks by the rich and powerful, whose aim has been to keep the economy rigged against the rest of us. We see that continuing today, in the assault by a network of dark-money donors who weaponized the courts to try to take us down. They’re the ones who pushed the Janus lawsuit, specifically to weaken unions like mine—and silence the voices of all paraeducators, classroom support staff, and millions of other public employees.”

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Shellye Davis reminds the crowd about the historic and present power of union solidarity.

An attempt to divide and conquer
In its 5-4 decision in Janus vs. AFSCME earlier today, the court struck down nearly four decades of precedent and legal protections established by the unanimous decision in Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education.

“This is an attack on children as well as an attack on teachers, nurses, firefighters, and other public-sector union workers who make up this nation’s middle class,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen, noting that the Court’s decision—a political one—hands over more power to corporations and billionaires “at the expense of the rest of us.”

The Janus case revolved around the issue of whether nonunion members should benefit from the wages, benefits, and protections negotiated by the union without paying the fair share cost of those negotiations. Connecticut’s fair share system has been a commonsense plan that worked well for both union and nonunion members. In states like Arizona and Wisconsin, where fair share was abolished, teachers’ voices have been silenced, salaries and benefits have plummeted, working conditions have eroded, class sizes are higher, and outcomes for students are often lower.

“The Janus case is an effort to take away educators’ freedom to speak with a unified voice about their workplace, their profession, and the well-being of their students,” said CEA Executive Director Donald Williams. “It’s an attempt to take away the rights of men and women to collectively bargain for fair salaries, benefits, and working conditions.”

A threat to everyone

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“We won’t be defeated,” says Richard Hart.

Also speaking at the press conference was Waterbury firefighter Richard Hart (left), a member of IAFF Local 1339, who told the crowd, “The public’s safety and protection are paramount to our mission, and without the ability to bargain for equipment, tools, apparatus staffing, personal protective equipment, and training, we cannot protect those who cannot protect themselves. This decision by the Supreme Court grossly undermines our ability to protect the citizenry of the United States, places them at greater risk, and should be of grave concern to all.”

He added, “We won’t be defeated. We will persevere.”

Connecticut AFL-CIO President Lori Pelletier summarized, “From brave first responders to dedicated public school teachers to life-saving nurses, our community is strong because of those who answer the call to public service. These public service workers are able to serve their communities better because they are union workers, and together as a union, they have the freedom to speak up together to help make our communities strong and safe. The billionaires and corporate CEOs who supported the Janus case are attempting to divide working people and limit our power in numbers. They know that unions give workers a powerful voice in speaking up for themselves, their families, and their communities.”

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Connecticut AFL-CIO President Lori Pelletier criticizes the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME but vows that unions will not be broken by it.

Responding to a reporter’s question about what unions plan to do in response to the court’s decision, one rally attendee put it simply: “We intend to organize more.”

The crowd chanted, “They say, ‘Give back.’ We say, ‘Fight back!’”

Though CEA is deeply disappointed by the Court’s decision, said Cohen, “We are stronger together, and we will work diligently and relentlessly to ensure that our union membership and bargaining power remains strong so that we can best serve our students and ensure a world-class public education system in Connecticut.”

CEA County Forums Bring Members Up to Speed, Stress Need to Stand Together

Bolton teacher Dan Ayer says his colleagues in other states haven’t fared as well as teachers in Connecticut, where the union is strong.

Teachers across Connecticut are coming out to their local CEA County Forums to stay on top of new threats to their profession and public education—and to learn how they can protect themselves.

Top among those threats is a court case that aims to weaken teachers’ ability to collectively bargain for fair salaries, benefits, and working conditions. Janus vs. AFSCME, which will be decided in the coming months, is nearly identical to the Friedrichs case that teachers faced in 2016, said CEA Executive Director Donald Williams. Janus would do away with fair share fees, allowing those who do not pay dues to still benefit from the union’s efforts, all in an attempt to weaken unions and mute teachers’ collective voice. Read more

How Labor Unions Raise Wages for Nonunion Workers

Labor DayWhile we enjoy the day off this Monday, we must remember that Labor Day is much more than a long weekend. Working men and women make this country what it is, and their success or failure is the success or failure of the entire nation.

Unions have played a proud role in the history of our country, ensuring important benefits to workers and a strong middle class. As union membership declines and the middle class shrinks, it’s more important than ever to take a hard look at the benefits unions also bring to nonunion workers. Read more

Honoring Cesar Chavez

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull and Yuyi Morales and Strike! The Farm Workers’ Fight For Their Rights by Larry Dane Brimner are both excellent tellings of the life of Cesar Chavez.

A picture book suitable for grades K-5, Harvesting Hope traces Chavez’s early childhood on his family’s ranch in Arizona and their dislocation with drought during the Great Depression. From then on, Chavez and his family were migrant farm workers. This experience made Chavez particularly sensitive to the plight of farm workers. The bulk of the book concerns his efforts to organize farm workers to improve their circumstances, the Delano grape strike of 1965, and the march from Delano to Sacramento in 1966.
Read more

Unions Powerful Force for Improving Lives of Low-Income Children

2015-09-11_15-42-14Fair wages and benefits, workplace rights and protections—unions are important for many reasons, but one only recently discovered benefit of unions is that they increase the likelihood of low-income children making it into the middle class. This finding comes from a recently released report by the Center for American Progress that found children from low-income families living in metro areas with higher percentages of people who belong to unions have a better shot at earning higher incomes as adults.

This discovery is particularly significant given that very few factors are as strongly correlated with upward economic mobility. A metro area’s rate of union membership is as highly or nearly as highly correlated with a low-income child’s chance of making it into the middle class as five other factors. These other factors with a strong positive or negative relationship are the rates of single motherhood, the degree of inequality, the high school dropout rate, the degree of residential segregation, and the amount of social capital (measured by factors including voter turnout and participation in community organizations). Read more

Americans’ Support for Unions on the Rise

Though support for unions took a hit during the recent recession, approval of unions is now on the rebound with almost six in ten Americans supporting unions, according to a recent Gallup Poll.

The poll found that, “The solid majority approve of unions, and most would like to see unions’ power strengthened, or at least maintained.”

And, in an encouraging note for the future, union support is strongest among younger workers, with 66 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds responding that they approve of unions.

Read the complete poll results here.

 

Yes, Union Decline Affects Everyone

labor unionIn today’s issue of The New York Times, columnist admits something too few are willing to say — “I was wrong,” he writes. Wrong, it turns out, about the importance of unions and the effect they have overall on the economy and the lives of the middle class.

Kristof says he used to be wary of unions, thinking they hampered economic growth. But after looking at study after study, he’s come to realize that the facts show the opposite: Unions have been an important force for economic growth and equality.

He writes,

Most studies suggest that about one-fifth of the increase in economic inequality in America among men in recent decades is the result of the decline in unions. It may be more: A study in the American Sociological Review, using the broadest methodology, estimates that the decline of unions may account for one-third of the rise of inequality among men.

Read the complete column here.

Here’s to more Americans coming to the same realization as Kristoff, and working to strengthen the labor movement so that more of us can have access to a living wage and a chance at the American dream.

Labor Day: How Are Workers Faring in CT?

CIO Education Department comic book pamphlet, c. 1945. Photo by Tobias Higbie, Flickr.

While we enjoy the day off this Monday, it’s important to remember that Labor Day means much more than a long weekend. Working men and women make this country what it is, and their success or failure spells success or failure for the entire nation.

A report out from Connecticut Voices for Children finds that the wage gap is widening in Connecticut. The state’s median hourly wage, adjusted for inflation, has declined from $20.61 in 2008 to $20.29 in 2011. Most of the growth has gone to Connecticut’s highest wage-earners. Low-income workers have seen hours cut, and an increase in part-time jobs.

The report says that Connecticut is losing its middle-class and that declining job opportunities for youth and decreasing wages and unemployment rates for Hispanics (the state’s largest growing racial demographic) are serious problems the state must face.

Connecticut must recognize the growing threat to its future, and act accordingly. While the recession has thrown the state into a yearly fiscal crisis, only with well-informed and concerted efforts to invest in education, create middle-class jobs with living wages, and protect youth and other populations that are Connecticut’s future, can Connecticut ensure that the next generation of Connecticut residents will prosper.

Support for working men and women and the unions that represent them is just as important now as at any time in our state’s past.

If you have the opportunity to discuss Labor Day with your class next week, or to teach students about labor history at any point in the school year, check out these great curriculum resources NEA has compiled.