Saturday, April 8, 2017

"Is this a union issue?"

"We are involved in educational issues because we are educators, political issues because we are State workers, and labor issues because we are union members......We rarely ask in the office anymore, "Is this a union issue?"  The SVFT is your union, so you should have a voice and decide which issues should be addressed."
These are the words of my good friend, SVFT President, and AFT CT Secretary Treasurer, Ed Leavy, in his most recent edition of Vocational Instructor, the monthly newsletter of The State Vocational Federation of Teachers.

As he often does in his writings, Ed hits at the core of what being part of the union means. His words speak specifically to his members, but with just a word or two change, they could equally apply to the members of all 90 AFT CT locals, regardless if they are educators, healthcare, or public service. They could also apply to our sisters and brothers involved in community advocacy groups.

Ed speaks in this article about how belonging to a union cannot be just about the contract, as important as this is.
Belonging to a union must be about using our collective voice on issues of importance to us, be they work related, professional, or social.
He speaks with rightful pride of how engaged his members are in the legislative and election realm but he also says that "engaging in issues cannot only be about politics. We must also engage members by addressing issues that effect their work."

In speaking about the union he says, "It must be a voice in the classroom, a voice in the principal's office, a voice in Central Office, a voice in the legislature, and a voice in our communities."
He reminded me of something another good friend, Lesa Hanson, said when we were organizing our hospital. She said, "I once thought my work was at the bedside. Now I realize it means advocating at the bedside, in the boardroom, and in the Capitol."

The confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is likely to lead to an erosion of worker's rights.
We will never outspend the top 1%, many of whom do not believe in a society that lifts all boats.

But our strength is in our members.
If we stand in unity, if we engage our members on issues that are important to them, if our members truly believe they are the union, there is a path forward.
Collective Bargaining is an important right, but Collective Bargaining without member engagement and Collective Action is not a union, and it will not lead to a society in which we see each other as sisters and brothers and see lifting all boats as our life's work.

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