Saturday, May 21, 2016

My report to the AFT Connecticut convention

After 21 years in an emergency room, transitioning to being a full time officer has been interesting, challenging, and rewarding. Our union and the labor movement in general face incredible challenges and attacks from so many directions.  I see my primary role as helping to position AFT Connecticut and our members to be best prepared to handle these challenges.  This has guided my work this past year.
To be a successful union means to have the ability to advocate for the people we serve, our families, our communities, and ourselves.  It means being the voice that says students, patients, and the public we serve must come before profits for the few at the top.  
If we do not take up this cry, who will?
To be positioned to be this voice will require us to be a professionally run organization, with long range strategic goals and plans, to be transparent and answerable to our members and good stewards of their dues, to be engaged and connected with AFT, other Labor unions, and our communities. Most importantly, we must have an engaged membership.
My role is to assist the President and other officers, the Executive Committee, Delegate Assembly, Divisional Councils, staff, and membership to be able to reach these goals.  My primary focus this year has been on healthcare, including the many hospital takeovers; but it has also been on organizing externally, internally, and community in all divisions; legislative actions and testimony; fostering co-operative relationships with AFT national, other Labor unions, and community groups; strategic planning; organizational restructuring, human resources, and budgets. However, we do not work in siloes. All the officers have worked on these issues as I have also worked on Teacher, PSRP, State Employees, Higher Education and Retiree issues.
Some of the decisions we have made this year have been painful and difficult. But the role of a leader is to listen to all parties and consider their position, work with Local leadership and the Executive Committee, and not be afraid to act.  I believe we have done that, and as painful as some of the decisions have been, I believe making them has been one of our accomplishments this year.  I believe we have been successful in organizing the Danbury Tech unit and preventing UPSUE raids because we have been strategic and made hard decisions. We have held strategic planning sessions with the full time officers, the staff, the Executive Committee, and with many of our Divisional Councils.  I believe we are in the process of making AFT Connecticut a more professional organization that operates in a transparent, strategic manor within the organizational model of Unionism because we have made hard decisions. 
We have balanced the needs and concerns of all our divisions and all of our partners in several difference coalitions, such as SEBAC, Hartford Rising, New Haven Rising, Thames River Rising, Due Justice, and others. We have strengthened our relationship with AFT and our Locals with an eye towards AFT/AFT Connecticut/Local partnerships built both on respect for local autonomy and national and state unity. 
We have begun to better engage our members.
We have door knocked and phone banked for workers in Danbury, held press conferences and forum in Windham and New London, picketed the Department of Labor, lobbied in Hartford and Washington, held rallies and parades, attended many award dinners, fundraisers, Local anniversaries, conventions, and meetings. We have strategic planned with some of the brightest national, regional, and local minds. I have had the pleasure of being part of our fall week-long public employee mobilization, attending an AFT national orientation with A&R, the PSRP PIC and the Healthcare PIC and presenting at the AFT Healthcare Organizing Conference and Healthcare PIC. I have come to know and appreciate in a deeper way all our members, be they educators, healthcare or public service and confirm what I have always believed, our similarities are greater than our differences.
The year ahead will present many challenges. The makeup of the Supreme Court will depend on national elections and our state employee contracts and funding will depend on state elections.  Conservative forces will continue their attack on workers, unionized and not.
The year ahead also presents opportunities to externally organize new members, to internally organize and more fully engage current members, and to continue and expand our coalitions with Labor and community.
Our strategic goals will not change, and although we will adjust swiftly to changes, we will not react to them.  If we stay true to our goals, our voice, our responsibilities, and our role, we will direct our destiny, not react to changes in the wind. 
We must be clear in our goals, to be the voice for our students, patients, and the public we serve.  We must be clear in our voice of advocacy for our communities, our families and ourselves. We must be clear in our responsibilities to our members for a transparent member led union based on membership engagement that remains fiscally responsible to them. We must be clear in our role of leadership in the greater labor movement, realizing that the Locals of AFT Connecticut, collectively, have a leadership role on the local, state, and national Labor stage.
It is truly an honor and a privilege to serve as your Executive Vice President and I look forward to the upcoming year, sobered by the challenges but excited by the possibilities.
Respectively submitted in solidarity,
John Brady
Executive Vice President

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