‘Roll up your sleeves’: at a dark time for US unions, this woman sees hope

From *The Guardian*

Mike Elk Sunday, May 20, 2018

UFF-FAU Preface: [Your friendly local faculty union, UFF, is affiliated with both of the large national teachers unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), as well as our state organization, the Florida Education Association (FEA)]

As many in the US labor movement wait nervously for the supreme court to deliver a judgment in a vital union case that some fear could deliver a body blow to American unions, one woman appears unfazed.

Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the 3 million strong National Education Association (NEA) and head of the biggest union in America, believes the threat posed by Janus vs AFSCME – which could strip unions of a major source of income – will not set back the labor movement long-term.

There have been warnings that Janus could be a hefty blow to unions as it threatens their ability to collect fees from non-members who benefit from the agreements they strike with employers. But García, who worked as a teacher in Utah under similar “right to work” rules, is not deterred by the prospect of the court ruling, which could come as early as Monday.

Instead, she thinks it might be a galvanising moment for the US labor movement.

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How Rightwing Groups Wield Secret ‘Toolkit’ to Plot against US Unions

UFF-FAU Preface:
 
 
You May Be Targeted by Anti-Union Groups
 
 
Many wealthy individuals, big banks and corporations, and right-wing groups have never accepted the rights of U.S. workers to organize collectively to represent their own interests.    Well-funded anti-union groups constantly work to weaken legal protections for unions and to undermine workers rights in any way they can.  An example is the newly-passed Florida law that requires that any union whose membership is below 50% of those it represents will be decertified.  (The scope and status of this law remains to be determined.)
 
 
The U.S. Supreme Court will soon rule on Janus v. AFSCME, an important anti-union case.  As described in the article linked below from The Guardian, this case is spurring anti-worker groups to target union members around the country, trying to persuade them to drop their union membership.  In the next few months you may be contacted by the “State Policy Network” or another right-wing group with a slick and deceptive message about union “reform” and “choice”.  Don’t buy what they’re selling.  Do your own research, and contact your union chapter president, Deandre Poole, at president@uff-fau.org.  Despite these attacks, UFF will continue to represent you and other faculty in Florida.]
*The Guardian* May 15, 2018
By Ed Pilkington

Rightwing activists are launching a nationwide drive to persuade public-sector trade union members to tear up their membership cards and stop paying dues, posing a direct threat to the progressive movement in America.

Documents obtained by the Guardian reveal that a network of radical conservative thinktanks spanning all 50 states is planning direct marketing campaigns targeted personally at union members to encourage them to quit. The secret push, the group hopes, could cost unions up to a fifth of their 7 million members, lead to the loss of millions of dollars in income and undermine a cornerstone of US progressive politics.

“Well run opt-out campaigns can cause public-sector unions to experience 5 to 20% declines in membership, costing hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in dues money. This can affect the resources and attention available for union leaders to devote to political action campaigns,” the internal documents say.

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Higher Ed Should Take a Cue From K-12

From Inside Higher Ed

April 20, 2018

I never planned to be a union organizer. When I was growing up my parents, almost daily, encouraged my brother and me to go to college. Enlisted military personnel who earned associate’s degrees during their careers, my parents never finished their bachelor’s degrees, but they took a friend’s advice very seriously: tell your kids often that they should attend college, and they will.

So like the other dutiful children of the Reagan generation, we went to college. Higher education was an investment in our future, a promise for a better life and a ticket to something my parents were never able to enjoy: a stable life without worry. But what I didn’t fully understand until I was deep into graduate school was how one-sided that investment actually was.

Toward the end of my Ph.D., as my student loan debt reached insurmountable heights and the academic job market loomed, my pivot to union organizing reflected a sharp shift in my perspective. Our deeply exploitative economic system is preying on my and the next generation’s hopes and dreams, and we’re compromising our future.

While I entered the academy genuinely hoping to make a positive difference in the lives of my students, and to do research that contributes to a more just and fair society, I haven’t been able to shake a consuming concern that those motivations are less and less compatible with higher education today. The political classes that control education policy in our country are fundamentally changing our institutions and, by extension, our profession. Elected leaders have enacted an austerity regime that systematically underfundshigher education, cuts programsundermines tenure and shifts the risks in the system to an army of unprotected, underpaid faculty members. I started organizing because we absolutely have to change this trajectory.

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4/24/18 Collective Bargaining update

On Wednesday, April 24th, UFF-FAU and the FAU Board of Trustees (BOT) met to continue the 2018 Collective Bargaining.
In attendance for UFF-FAU were Dr. Meredith Mountford, UFF-FAU president; Dr. Robert Zoeller, UFF-FAU lead negotiator; Dr. Deandre Poole, Senior Instructor; Debra Vance Noelk, A. D. Henderson/FAUS; Kathleen Moorhead, Senior Instructor.

***
I.          Highlights –

Accomplished
Article 17 LEAVES
17.10 After much discussion working on compulsory leave change, negotiated language that supports a healthy and safe workplace for everyone in the FAU community, with clear guidelines to minimize the possibility of abuse.
17.13 FAUS personal leave days – uncharged personal leave day returned to 1stof 5 leave days

 

UFF-FAU Presented
Article 23 SALARIES
UFF-FAU presented documentation to support its position that state statute does not exempt FAUS Permanent Status personnel from salary increases.
While negotiations for salaries have not begun, pending receipt of the budget numbers from Tallahassee, UFF-FAU’s position is clear that all parties should receive raises.
(fyi – Permanent Status provides teachers with job security much in the way that tenure does for university faculty.)
Article 24 BENEFITS
UFF-FAU presented language that:

  • Expands the tuition benefits for employees and dependent children of employees
  • Gives dependent children of employees priority admission status at Slattery and Henderson

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More Than 10,000 Working People Join Together in Unions in One Week

April 20, 2018

From AFL-CIO

(Washington, D.C.)  This past week alone, more than 10,000 working people chose to join together in unions for the freedom to negotiate a fair return on their hard work. From flight attendants to graduate students, each day more working people are gaining the power to change an economy rigged against us.

Here are some of the latest victories for working people who, through their unions, are improving their lives:

  • Nearly 5,000 JetBlue flight attendants will have the freedom to negotiate with the airline’s management after they overwhelmingly voted in favor of joining the Transport Workers (TWU) on Tuesday.
  • In a historical victory for graduate students and research assistants at universities who have been fighting for a fair return on their work, more than 5,000 Harvard University teaching and research assistants decided Thursday to join UAW.
  • The labor movement is growing in Southern states, as evidenced Thursday when 700 working people at Atlanta Gas Light, in Atlanta, Georgia, voted to join the Electrical Workers (IBEW).
  • On Thursday, 2,000 personal support workers and 400 registered nurses at Spectrum Health Care in the greater Toronto area joined the Machinists (IAM)
  • In Pleasanton, California, 400 registered nurses from Stanford Health Care’s ValleyCare Medical Center will join National Nurses United (NNU) after a majority of them voted to join the union. And in New York, another 2,200 nurses from Albany Medical Center will join the New York State Nurses Association, an affiliate of NNU.
  • In Marlborough, Massachusetts, 220 working people from nurses to clerical staff at UMass Memorial-Marlborough Hospital decided to join the State Healthcare and Research Employees Union, an affiliate of AFSCME.
  • The wave of working people in digital newsrooms who join together in labor unions continues to grow. This week The New Republic agreed to voluntarily recognize its editorial staff’s decision to join The NewsGuild of New York, TNG-CWA Local 31003 of the Communications Workers of America (CWA)

“We’re living in a profound moment of change. By joining together in a union, working people are joining, fighting and winning together for the dignity that we’ve earned,” said AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka. “Despite rigged rules and aggressive corporate attacks, 260,000 new union members joined our ranks last year, and three-quarters of new union members are under the age of 34. As we gain density, we gain power. As we grow in numbers, we grow in influence. That’s how we start to build the America working people need.”

At a time when powerful corporations and special interests continue to use a rigged system to their benefit, this kind of momentum proves that working people are standing up to defend the freedom to join together in unions.

According to a recent Gallup poll, America’s labor movement is gaining popularity. Sixty-one percent of Americans approved of labor unions—the highest number in over a decade. The labor movement has been at the forefront of the fight to raise standards of living for all working people across the country, from raising the minimum wage to supporting a new set of economic rules designed to achieve broadly shared prosperity.

Florida Impact of Declining Revenues on Higher Education From 1991-2016

Your faculty union’s affiliate, the National Education Association, has analyzed each state’s yearly appropriations for public higher education from 1991 to 2016 compared with tuition and enrollment.  The charts linked below show how state support for public higher education in Florida has declined while tuition and fees have increased.  As a result, while Florida college students in 1991 were paying for about a fifth of their education through tuition and fees, now they are paying for more than a third.  Needless to say, such lack of state investment disproportionately impacts first generation and working-class students, many of whom attend FAU,

The faculty union is concerned with this issue because it affects the working (teaching) conditions of faculty as surely as it affects the learning conditions of our students.  When students are financially stressed because of higher tuition and fees, the quality of their education declines, and faculty must respond.

Click below for the data:

http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/HE/180410-florida.pdf

Why do Red State Teachers need to Strike for a living Wage? It is about Class

[Your faculty union is affiliated with the two national K-12 teachers unions, AFT and NEA. And at FAU, the union also represents teachers at the two schools on the Boca campus, Henderson School and FAU High School. Like the professional librarians at FAU, Henderson and FAU High School teachers are faculty, and the union represents all full-time faculty.] 

By Steve Fraser | ( Tomdispatch.com) |

Teachers in red-state America are hard at work teaching us all a lesson. The American mythos has always rested on a belief that this country was born out of a kind of immaculate conception, that the New World came into being and has forever after been preserved as a land without the class hierarchies and conflicts that so disfigured Europe.

The strikes, rallies, and walkouts of public school teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, soon perhaps Arizona, and elsewhere are a stunning reminder that class has always mattered far more in our public and private lives than our origin story would allow. Insurgent teachers are instructing us all about a tale of denial for which we’ve paid a heavy price.

Professionals or Proletarians?

Are teachers professionals, proletarians, or both? One symptom of our pathological denial of class realities is that we are accustomed to thinking of teachers as “middle class.” Certainly, their professional bona fides should entitle them to that social station. After all, middle class is the part of the social geography that we imagine as the aspirational homing grounds for good citizens of every sort, a place so all-embracing that it effaces signs of rank, order, and power. The middle class is that class so universal that it’s really no class at all.

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Adjunct faculty at Loyola University Chicago stage walkout over contract dispute

 April 4

*The Washington Post*

A group of faculty at Loyola University Chicago went on strike Wednesday after two years of negotiations with the Jesuit school over job security, wages and benefits failed to produce a contract.

Instructors gathered on campus in the early morning hours for a daylong protest of their employment conditions, according to Janet Venum, a spokeswoman for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, which represents 360 non-tenure track faculty in Loyola’s College of Arts and Sciences.

This is the first contract the instructors have attempted to negotiate since forming the union in 2016 and becoming the university’s first faculty bargaining unit. Loyola has 4,000 faculty on staff, 12 percent of whom are represented by the union, according to the university.

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Opinion: Florida’s workers want stronger unions

Tallahassee Democrat

Rich Templin,  2:01 p.m. ET April 5, 2018

Dr. Bob McClure’s opinion column extolling the benefits of Right-to-Work laws while proclaiming the death of the American labor movement was replete with the same anti-Labor talking points we have come to expect from the James Madison Institute, a part of a massive network of billionaire-funded think tanks and PR firms who count the elimination of all unions and most workers’ rights as one of their primary goals. The piece ran on April Fool’s Day and like most pranks on that day, there isn’t a lot of truth behind it.

Dr. McClure’s piece centers on two main lines of argument.  First, unions are irrelevant in the current era.  Second, Florida’s economy is booming, a situation created by the Right to Work provision in Florida’s Constitution and that, relatedly, this economy further supports the irrelevancy of unions.

First, on union irrelevancy. Just taking in the 30,000-foot view, if unions are irrelevant, why is there a vast, extremely well-funded network of think tanks, political super PACs and organizations like JMI, that show up in state legislatures across the country every year to eliminate them? Why spend hundreds of millions of dollars to eliminate that which is irrelevant?

The fact is that unions are relevant now more than ever. As income inequality continues to explode and wages have stagnated over the past three decades, unions and collective bargaining are being embraced in new professional sectors in the economy and disproportionally by workers in the millennial demographic. The Center for Economic Policy Research reports that there has been a surge in union membership with more than three-quarters of the 262,000 new union members last year being under age thirty-five.

  Second, Florida’s “flourishing” economy. While the economy may look great from the ivory towers of JMI, that isn’t the case for most Floridians. The United Way’s most recent ALICE (Asset-Limited-Income-Constrained-Employed) report, which is a measure of the working poor, found that a whopping 44 percent of all households are struggling and can’t afford essentials such as food, housing and child care.  Sixty-six percent of all Florida jobs pay less than $20 per hour. Poverty is on the rise. Thirty-six (of 67) Florida counties have lost jobs since 2007. Calling this a “flourishing” economy is a cruel April Fool’s day prank indeed.

The labor movement is changing to meet the new economy in America and is growing after years of decline. This is a good thing for all workers because it is clear that the billionaires, CEOs and conservative think tanks aren’t looking out for workers, they have to organize and fight for themselves. Unions are fighting for economic and social justice for all Americans and as the majority of our workforce continues to lose ground, unions will continue to grow and continue the fight to create a better nation. As workers find their own power through collective bargaining, the rich and powerful will continue to try and stop them.

Rich Templin is legislative and political director of the Florida AFL-CIO.