By Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers
Right-wing groups connected to the DeVos and Koch families didn’t wait for a second to pounce after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision striking down fair share fees that nonmembers contribute for union representation.
Their actions reaffirm Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent that this case was far more about politics— and weaponizing the First Amendment on the part of the anti-union billionaires that brought it— than anything else.
In the last few days, right-wing groups have bombarded our members in more than 10 states with slick emails sent to work addresses and ads on social media urging them to opt out of union membership.
I’ve had a chance to check in with some of you, and our members are overwhelmingly sticking with the union.
Some reports I have gotten: In Ohio, after a barrage of emails urging teachers to drop their union membership, the Ohio Federation of Teachers reports no drops. Education Minnesota has not heard of any drops. The United Federation of Teachers in New York City, no drops. In Janus’ home turf—Illinois—the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union report no drops! And in Los Angeles, where there has been a sustained deluge of email from right-wing groups that started before Janus, United Teachers Los Angeles reports only one drop among almost 35,000 members. And, in some cases, we’ve had fair share payers who heard about the decision turn around and sign up as members.
That’s not the only reason I’m heartened. While the right wing is figuring out ways to harass our members, we are staying focused on what really matters—using collective power to help people improve their lives, because it is through unity and our unions that we make possible what no one person can win on their own. Just look at what’s happened in the past week:
- More than 2,300 faculty members at Oregon State University joined the AFT.
- University of Cincinnati nurses bargained for and won a raise, new on-call language and staffing grids that match nurse-patient ratios!
- Lecturers at the University of Michigan have been fighting for a fair contract and this week announced that those efforts resulted in a 48 percent pay increase for entry-level lecturers!
So, while we’re fighting to achieve a better life for our members, our families, our communities and the people we serve, the Koch brothers, the DeVos family and their ilk will continue to unleash their “drop” and “opt out” campaigns—barraging union members with emails, tweets, mail, and even billboards with that message.
As we head into this post-Janus world, we’ve got to make sure we’re meeting our legal obligations under the law, that we’re calling out the right-wing funders of these anti-union campaigns—and the reasons they’re funding them. At the same time, we are laser-focused on what matters most: strengthening our unions so that our members and working people can achieve together what would be impossible on their own, and preparing for the 2018 elections.
With this in mind, here are some resources your national union has compiled for you:
- Already in California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Washington, right-wing groups have been emailing our members. And, we’ve seen social media, print and TV ads in Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. These are not missives from workers. It’s the stridently anti-union Mackinac Center for Public Policy and other right-wing groups that are behind these efforts to defund and destroy unions. Download information on the right-wing groups behind the “drop” campaigns here. Here’s a good articlethat describes what these groups are up to and here’s information on the dark money behind these attacks. We also can provide you with more in-depth information on these groups. Contact us at AFTSolidarityHotline@aft.org.
- And, despite all these efforts, our locals and members are making it clear who’s behind these drop campaigns. Click here to see my favorite. We have other resources for you and your members as you recommit to each other and show the value of “stickin’ with the union.” Visit our password-protected AFT All In website at AFTAllIn.org.
- If you didn’t get the memo I sent on Wednesday with information about what steps to take to comply with the decision, you can download a PDF copy from http://www.AFTAllIn.org. Remember All In is password protected, so you’ll want to sign up to be a registered user. We’re working on compiling answers to frequently asked questions, and we’ll get those to you next week.
- We’ve set up a hotline you can call 12 hours a day—from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST, seven days a week—so that we can answer any questions you have in regard to making changes to your practices based on the Janus You also can get information on these right-wing groups and provide us with up-to-the-minute information about drop campaigns in your area. And you can also share your stories about how you and your members are taking on these charlatans. We’re calling it the AFTSolidarityHotline at 800-497-3571. Or you can report what’s going on in your area at our secure website www.ReportAUnionBuster.com.
It’s also worth thanking all our allies who showed their support for working people and unions on Janus decision day. From elected officials to editorial boards to allies in communities around the country, we stood together. You’ve shared with me many of the articles in your local press. Here’s an article and an editorial worth reading from my hometown paper, the New York Times. And, here’s a link to an interview I gave on WNYC.
Finally, keep in mind that we are on new legal ground. Our lawyers are poring through the Janus decision looking at the nuances in the opinion. For example: What benefits go to members? Nonmembers? What will change now? What will stay the same?
What we know is that workers are stronger together; and as such, we believe we should represent all workers in our bargaining units as we did before Janus. And over the course of the next few months, many of us will be considering what is a basic benefit for all as opposed to what is a member benefit. For example, members, not nonmembers, have the right to vote in union elections and take part in the union’s day-to-day life and democracy. For now, we recommend you continue to follow your state’s laws and rulings by the public employees’ labor relations boards on representing nonmembers.
I’m sure you and your leaders have ideas about this, and we would welcome hearing them as we consider how to move forward legally in the days ahead.
We will find ways in the days and weeks ahead to talk to each other and share our ideas about what makes sense going forward.