Feb. 2016 Advocate: Building Union Power

Building Union Power

Faculty know what is right for our colleges. Amidst the attacks leveled on public education nationally, our union makes sure that our voices, as frontline educational professionals, are heard. Joining a union means standing together with a strong unified voice — whether it is in our workplace, in our community, in the media, in the state Legislature or the halls of Congress. We stand up for what’s right for our schools and our students.

We use the power of collective action to improve our working conditions so that we have what it takes to educate effectively. This includes reasonable workloads, adequate materials and equipment, sensible policies that support safe and healthy places of learning, and stemming the abuse of part-time and temporary jobs. The union helps faculty organize to promote education, and defends you against bad ideas from administrators, legislators, and self-appointed “reformers” who want to dismantle public education. We are a community of colleagues joined together for the common good.

Friedrichs Supreme Court case

While the benefits of Proposition 30 have been energizing, new assaults are multiplying. A current lawsuit, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, seeks to eliminate current union “fair share” provisions, also called “agency fee.” If it succeeds, the funds available to unions would dwindle while non-paying bargaining unit members would continue to benefit from union representation at no charge.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Friedrichs case this spring (although the death of Justice Antonin Scalia will impact that decision.) While California remains a stronghold of union membership, the case would affect California the same as any other state.

When this case is viewed alongside anti-union legislation nationwide, a clear picture emerges. Fifteen states have passed laws limiting collective bargaining and 25 states have introduced right-to-work legislation, or as the labor movement calls it, “right-to-work-for-less.” When Indiana passed right-to-work legislation in 2012, within less than a year, union membership fell by 56,000.

In states where union fair share has been eliminated, union members have been barraged by well-financed, right-wing campaigns that include phone calls, mail pieces, ads, billboards, and social media posts urging them to withdraw from their unions.

With this in mind, our Union has developed a new campaign called “Building Power.”  This campaign returns our focus to the basic elements upon which our union thrives: our relationships with one another, and strengthening our ability to unite in action to realize our common goals.

We are honored that our Local has been chosen by CFT to participate in this program.  We will engage our faculty to find solutions to the escalating problem of inequitable workloads.  We have partnered with our neighboring AFT Local Unions to engage our community through events like the “Schools Our Children Deserve” conference at Skyline College on March 19.  The best way to prepare for the challenges ahead is by uniting to improve our working lives and becoming public advocates for our students and our communities.
We look forward to talking with all of you more about our efforts this spring.