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Workers on Janus: A Political Effort to Further Rig the Rules Against Working People

In a rigged economy, workers say the freedom to come together in strong unions is more important than ever

WASHINGTON — The following statement was issued by members and leaders of AFSCME, AFT, NEA, and SEIU – the nation’s four largest public sector unions – in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to grant Certiorari in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31:

The Janus case is a blatantly political and well-funded plot to use the highest court in the land to further rig the economic rules against everyday working people. The billionaire CEOs and corporate interests behind this case, and the politicians who do their bidding, have teamed up to deliver yet another attack on working people by striking at the freedom to come together in strong unions. The forces behind this case know that by joining together in strong unions, working people are able to win the power and voice they need to level the economic and political playing field. However, the people behind this case simply do not believe that working people deserve the same freedoms they have: to negotiate a fair return on their work.

This case started with an overt political attempt by the billionaire governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, to attack public service workers through the courts. And, in a letter to supporters detailed in The Guardian, the CEO of the corporate-backed State Policy Network (SPN) reveals the true intent of a nationwide campaign of which Janus is a part: to strike a ‘mortal blow’ and ‘defund and defang’ America’s unions. The merits of the case are clear. Since 1977, Abood has effectively governed labor relations between public sector employees and employers, allowing employers and employees the freedom to determine labor policies that best serve the public. When reviewing the legal merits of this case, it is clear that this attempt to manipulate the court against working people should be rejected.

“This case is yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor. When working people are able to join strong unions, they have the strength in numbers they need to fight for the freedoms they deserve, like access to quality health care, retirement security and time off work to care for a loved one. The merits of the case, and 40 years of Supreme Court precedent and sound law, are on our side. We look forward to the Supreme Court honoring its earlier rulings.” – Lee Saunders, President, AFSCME

“My work as a Child Protection Investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is vital to the safety of our state’s most vulnerable children and families. This court case is yet another political attack on the freedom of my colleagues and I to speak up to ensure that we can safely and adequately manage our caseloads, which reflects our commitment to safety and public service to our communities.” – Stephen Mittons, AFSCME Council 31 member, Child Protection Investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

“Unions are all about fighting for and caring about people—and in the public sector that includes those we represent and those we protect and teach in communities across America. Yet corporations, wealthy interests and politicians have manufactured Janus as part of their long and coordinated war against unions. Their goal is to further weaken workers’ freedom to join together in a union, to further diminish workers’ clout.

“These powerful interests want to gut one of the last remaining checks on their control—a strong and united labor movement that fights for equity and opportunity for all, not just the privileged few. And under the guise of the First Amendment, they want to overturn a 40-year precedent that’s been reaffirmed numerous times. In other words, this would be a radical departure from well-established law. We believe that after resolving a similar case last year, the Supreme Court erred in granting cert in Janus, and that the trumped-up underpinnings of the plaintiff’s argument will rapidly become clear before the full bench.” – Randi Weingarten, President, AFT

“My union just went through a lengthy contract fight in Philadelphia. We had to fight hard to protect our students’ basic needs, such as having at least one nurse and counselor in each school and ensuring that kids had necessary textbooks and materials. And we had to fight back against the district’s desire to eliminate class sizes and get lead testing for the school’s water fountains. Most people assume that the union only fights for teachers’ rights, when in reality, most of our contract is there to protect the basic rights and needs of our students. Those rights are at grave risk in Janus.” – Jeff Price, AFT Local 3 member, Teacher at Central High School, School District of Philadelphia.

“For decades corporate CEO’s and the wealthy have fought to enrich themselves at the expense of the rights and pocket books of working people, and that harms families in communities across the country. As the nation’s largest union, we know this fight will not only impact the lives of educators, but it also impacts the families of the children we educate. We won’t back down from this fight and we will always stand up to support working people, our students and the communities we serve.” – Lily Eskelsen García, President, NEA

“More and more, the economy is working against working people, including the families whose children I teach. My union gives me a voice and a seat at the table to advocate for my students, my colleagues, and my community.” – Sonya Shpilyuk, NEA member, High School English teacher, Montgomery County, MD

The anti-worker extremists behind this case want to divide working people, make it harder to pool our resources, and limit our collective power. But SEIU members won’t let any court case stand in our way of sticking together for good jobs and strong communities.” – Mary Kay Henry, President, SEIU

“By sticking together in our union, we’ve lifted the wage floor to a $15 minimum wage, protected and expanded health care benefits for our families, and won more funding for our schools. Together, we’ll continue to fight to ensure all students have the support and services they need to succeed in school. That’s why the extremists are attacking us, to stop our progress. But we plan to stick together no matter what and keep standing up for quality public services.” – Edna Logan, SEIU Local 99 member, Custodian at Esteban Torres School, Los Angeles Unified School District.

NEA’s Vice President, Becky Pringle, Delivers A Powerful Speech At Netroots Nation

Becky Pringle, Vice President of NEA. Image from Netroots Nation Facebook. Photographer Kerry Maloney – TravelerBroads.Com

While attending the Netroots Nation convention in Atlanta this week I heard from many different speakers and I have to say one of my favorite speeches came from Becky Pringle, the Vice President of the National Education Association (NEA), the largest labor union in the country, with over 3 million members.

Her amazingly powerful speech called on the members of Netroots Nation to stand up and take action.

“It is you, who will engage and inspire; lift up and connect our collective voices to create the kind of schools and communities and country that reflect our hopes; our dreams; our possibilities.“

“We need you to stand in the gap for our children, when the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights refuses to protect their most basic of human and civil rights.”

She continued by showing how President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are working together to “decimate” our public school system.

“President Trump and Sec. DeVos made it very clear that their educational priority was to decimate our public schools, and destroy the dreams of those students who come to us with the greatest needs.”

She highlighted how the Trump/DeVos agenda attacks some of the most vulnerable children in our public school system. Together they slashed education funding by $10 billion dollars and repealed protections that provided a “safe learning environment for our trans students.”

“From jeopardizing Title IX protections to refusing to agree to not privatize the education of our students with special needs, to making the case for guns in the classroom to fight off the attack of the grizzly bears, Betsy DeVos demonstrated that she knew absolutely nothing about schools and kids and education.”

Once again she called on Netroots Nation to be bold and unafraid, to take a stand and to help fight to ensure that every child has healthcare, has strong civil rights protections, and to address the institutional racism.

“This is our time to demand what’s right, just like Mother Jones, that great labor organizer, who many called the most dangerous woman in America, because she proudly proclaimed: I’m not afraid of the pen, or the scaffold, or the sword. I will tell the truth wherever I please.”

“Netroots Nation, let’s be the most dangerous collective voice in this country. Let’s tell the truth wherever we please.”

“It is us, who must stand and be a witness. We must use our collective power, and with righteous indignation demand justice for our children.”

You can see Ms. Pringle’s entire speech here or below thanks to Netroots Nation.

Educators: Sen. Kelly Ayotte Is A Burden On New Hampshire Students

Ayotte BurdenNew TV ad keeps Ayotte honest about her votes to cut Pell Grants and raise student loan interest rates 

WASHINGTON—With all eyes focused on one of the most watched U.S. Senate races in the country, the NEA Advocacy Fund began running a new television ad accusing U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte of siding with special interests instead of New Hampshire’s students and families. The seven-figure television spot, “A Heavy Burden,” is scheduled to run in the Boston media market, the eighth largest media market in the country, through September 9. 

“New Hampshire students want degrees, not debt,” said NEA political director Carrie Pugh. “Yet many students are stuck due to the burden of student debt. When presented with the opportunity to provide student loan debt relief to tens of thousands of Granite State students, including thousands of aspiring educators, Senator Kelly Ayotte voted to cut federal Pell Grants and raise student loan interest rates. Instead of siding with students and families, she chose special interests looking out for their own bottom line. That’s not the New Hampshire way.” 

The national student loan debt numbers are staggering. More than 40 million Americans are burdened by student loan debt. More than 212,000 New Hampshire people are carrying student loan debt. According to a prominent student loan debt tracker website, the average 2016 student graduated owing more than $37,000 in student loans. 

Labor Leaders Speak At The Democratic National Convention (VIDEO)

The Democratic National Convention is in full swing and there is so much going on it is easy to miss something.

On Day 1 of the DNC labor leaders from a variety of national unions spoke in support of Hillary Clinton and in opposition to the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency.

Labor unions have stood in strong opposition to Donald Trump since he first announced his campaign when he attacked immigrants and threatened to tear apart families by deporting 11 million aspiring Americans.

Hillary has garnered strong support from labor unions throughout out the primary.  She gained more labor support when she came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership and announced her bold infrastructure investment plan.

Nearly all of the labor leaders who spoke highlighted that the choice this election could not be clearer. Do we want a champion for working families or a shameless billionaire who has always been there to make a quick buck off the suffering of working people?

Here are just a few quotes from the video below as transcribed by C-Span:

AFSME President Lee Saunders
“HILLARY CLINTON NEVER QUITS EITHER. SHE UNDERSTANDS THAT COLLECTIVE BARGAINING RIGHTS STRENGTHEN ALL OF US. WE NEED A PRESIDENT WHO GETS THAT AND UNDERSTAND THAT BUSTING UNIONS AND CUTTING SERVICES MEANS FAMILIES SUFFER.”

“I WAS IN LAS VEGAS AT THE TRUMP HOTEL LAST WEEK AND THEY VOTED TO FORM A UNION. BUT DONALD TRUMP WILL NOT MEET WITH THEM.”

“I KNOW WHAT SIDE I AM ON. I AM WITH HER. ELECT HILLARY CLINTON THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
“WORKING PEOPLE ARE STRONG AND DONALD TRUMP IS WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. LISTEN, HE THINKS HE IS A TOUGH GUY. DONALD, I WORKED IN THE MINES WITH TOUGH GUYS. I KNOW TOUGH GUYS. DONALD, YOU ARE NO TOUGH GUY. YOU ARE A PHONY. DONALD TRUMP HAS REPEATEDLY OUTSOURCED JOBS TO LINE HIS OWN POCKETS. HE ROOTED FOR THE HOUSING COLLAPSE. HE SAID WAGES ARE TOO HIGH — NOT JUST ONCE, BUT REPEATEDLY. “

“WE ARE BUILDING A MOVEMENT FOR A BETTER LIFE, NO MATTER THE COLOR OF OUR SKIN, WHERE WE WERE BORN, FOR WE LOVE, OR HOW WE WORSHIP. HILLARY CLINTON ANSWERED OUR CALL. SHE IS FIGHTING TO REWRITE THE ECONOMIC RULES FOR ALL OF US. SHE HAS A BOLD PLAN TO INVEST IN MANUFACTURING, INFRASTRUCTURE, AND JOBS. SHE OPPOSES THE JOB KILLING TRANSPACIFIC PARTNERSHIP.”

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia
“HILLARY CLINTON BELIEVES IN KEEPING FAMILIES TOGETHER. SHE BELIEVES IN OUR DREAMERS. SHE BELIEVES THAT EDUCATORS SHOULD BE FOCUSED ON EDUCATION, NOT DEPORTATION.”

“DONALD TRUMP SEES IMMIGRANTS AS CRIMINALS, DRUG DEALERS ,RAPISTS? HE SAYS HE WOULD ROUND UP FAMILIES AND UP THEM AND BUILD A WALL — DEPART THEM AND BUILD THE WALL.”

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry
“WE NEED A PRESIDENT WHO WANTS TO RAISE WAGES IN THIS COUNTRY, NOT ONE THAT SAYS WAGES ARE TOO HIGH AND THERE SHOULD NOT BE A FEDERAL MINIMUM WAGE. THAT IS WHY WE ARE WORKING TO ELECT HILLARY CLINTON AND CHAMPIONS UP AND DOWN THE BALLOT WHO WILL RAISE WAGES AND HEALTH WORKERS JOINED TOGETHER IN UNIONS.”

“WE MUST ELECT HILLARY CLINTON AND THE CHAMPIONS LIKE HER WERE GOING TO PUT FAMILIES FIRST AND STOP THE CANDIDATE OF HATRED AND GREED.”

North American Building Trades Unions President Sean McGarvey
“TRADE UNION MEMBERS HAVE HELPED OF THIS GREAT NATION. THE SUPER DOME, THE GOLDING GATE BRIDGE, THE FREEDOM TOWERS, THE ARENA WE ARE IN TONIGHT. YOU NAME IT, WE BUILD IT. WE ARE PROUD OF OUR WORK. BUT WITH COLLAPSED BRIDGES, COMING ROADS AND STRESS ENERGY SYSTEMS, WE NOTICED HAVE TIME TO REBUILD OUR NATION’S INFRASTRUCTURE. BUILDING TRADE NUMBERS ARE READY TO DO THEIR PART.”

“HILLARY CLINTON HAS THE BOLDEST INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN WE HAVE SEEN IN GENERATIONS. SHE WILL HELP US REPAIR ROADS AND BRIDGES AND MAKE BROADBAND UNIVERSAL. BUILD NEW AIRPORTS AND MODERNIZE THE ENERGY GRID. SHE WILL DO IT ALL WHILE CREATING GOOD, FAIR PAINT JOBS WITH STANDARDS THAT SUPPORT REAL PARTNERSHIP PROGRAMS WHICH THE BUILDING TRADES PIONEER.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten
“DONALD MADE MILLIONS WHILE HE RIPPED OFF WORKERS AND SMALL BUSINESSES WITH HIS UNFAIR BUSINESS PRACTICES. REMEMBER, HE ENDED UP BANKRUPTING NOT ONE, NOT TWO, NOT THREE, BUT FOR OF HIS COMPANIES — BUT FOUR OF HIS COMPANIES. AND HIS ECONOMIC IDEAS WILL MAKE MILLIONAIRES LIKE HIM RICHER AT THE EXPENSE OF THE MIDDLE CLASS.”

“[Donald Trump] IS COMPLETELY UNQUALIFIED TO BE IN THE OVAL OFFICE.  
THANKFULLY, WE HAVE A DIFFERENT CHOICE AND IT IS A GREAT ONE. HILLARY CLINTON. SHE HAS WORKED HER ENTIRE LIFE TO LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD FOR WORKING FAMILIES. THAT’S US OF PUBLIC EDUCATION FROM PRE-K TO COLLEGE. A PLAN FOR UNIVERSAL EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION.”

NEA-New Hampshire Announces Recommendation of Hillary Clinton for President

Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses the representative assembly at the 154th Annual Meeting, 95th Representative Assembly at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center Tuesday July 5, 2016. (SCOTT ISKOWITZ/RA TODAY/ NEA Public Relations All Rights Reserved)

Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses the representative assembly at the 154th Annual Meeting, 95th Representative Assembly at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center Tuesday July 5, 2016. (IMAGE – SCOTT ISKOWITZ/RA TODAY/ NEA Public Relations — All Rights Reserved)

CONCORD – Following Hillary Clinton’s remarks to the more than 7,500 delegates at the National Education Association’s 95th Representative Assembly, NEA-New Hampshire, the state’s largest public sector union, announced their recommendation of Hillary Clinton for President.

“We are proud to join with educators from across the Granite State in recommending Hillary Clinton to be our next President and continue to work in partnership with her to create stronger public schools and a brighter future for the next generation of students,” said Scott McGilvray, President of NEA-New Hampshire  

“There is so much at stake this election for New Hampshire students and teachers. Donald Trump has continued to put forth reckless policies that would hurt so many students across our state, like eliminating the Department of Education–a move that would strip students with special needs of resources and protection, deprive schools in rural New Hampshire of funds, and eliminate the federal Pell Grant that makes college accessible for thousands of our graduates.”

“As President, Hillary will make sure that teachers are supported and heard at the highest levels of government. She has been a champion for our nation’s children her entire life and with her vision, we can ensure that every student in New Hampshire has the opportunity to succeed and every teacher has the tools he or she needs to make that success a reality.”

Hillary Clinton on Teachers

NEA-NH Makes A Powerful Recommendation In District 2 Executive Council Race

NEA - NH Logo(CONCORD, NH) New Hampshire’s largest public employee union, the National Education Association of New Hampshire, just threw their weight behind Andru Volinsky in his campaign to for Executive Council.  

Founded in 1854, NEA-NH has grown to represent over 17,000 public employees throughout the state with one mission: “to advocate for the children of New Hampshire and public school employees, and to promote lifelong learning.”

NEA-New Hampshire’s President Scott McGilvary announced NEA-NH’s recommendation of Andru Volinsky in his run for the New Hampshire Executive Council in District Two, which includes Rochester, Dover, Concord, Keene, and a number of other New Hampshire communities.  

“Andru Volinsky has been supporting teachers and the interests of public education since the days of the Claremont School Funding Suit.  We are proud to stand with him in his race for the Executive Council,” said McGilvray

Volinsky was one of the three lawyers who represented the Claremont School District in their fight against the State for adequate school funding.  The Claremont decision forced the State to reevaluate how they disperse state funds to local schools and increased the stated contributions by over 8%.

WMUR reports that “[Volinsky] is currently representing the City of Dover in its lawsuit against the state contending that the cap on state adequacy money to school districts violates the state constitution.”

Mr. Volinsky, upon learning of the recommendation, said, “There are few greater honors than to be recognized by an organization you respect as much as I respect the NEA.  I shall cherish this recommendation.”

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, The Case To Push Right To Work Nationally

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

Another day, another attack on working families.

The Supreme Court is about to hear a case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association that could overturn a nearly forty-year decision that allows unions to negotiate “fair-share” fees for non-union members who benefit from the union’s contract.

“We are disappointed that at a time when big corporations and the wealthy few are rewriting the rules in their favor, knocking American families and our entire economy off-balance, the Supreme Court has chosen to take a case that threatens the fundamental promise of America—that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to provide for your family and live a decent life,” wrote NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, AFT President Randi Weingarten, CTA President Eric C. Heins, AFSCME President Lee Saunders, and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry in joint statement.

For decades corporations have been trying to bust our unions in an effort to suppress workers and pocket more of the fruits of our labor. Twenty-five states have already passed, so-called Right To Work laws, that make it illegal for unions and employers to negotiate a fair share clause’s in their contracts.

Nearly forty years ago the right for unions to charge a fair share fee was challenged in the Supreme Court. In the case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the court upheld the union’s right to negotiate a fee from non-members who benefit from the contract.

For generations unions have protected workers and help to counterbalance the corporate race to the bottom. In free-bargaining states, workers on average, make $1553 dollars more annually.

“It’s abundantly clear that right to work laws are negatively correlated with workers’ wages,” said Elise Gould, Senior Economist with the Economic Policy Institute.

This case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, is just another example of the extreme right wing pushing their anti-worker agenda on all workers. The case has been pushed by the Center for Individual Rights with strong support from wealthy businessmen and ultra-libertarians Charles and David Koch.

“The list of foundations and donor-advised funds supporting the Center for Individual Rights reads like a who’s who of the right’s organized opposition to labor,” wrote Adele M. Stan in the American Prospect.

The Center for Individual Rights (CIR) is also known for taking cases to the Supreme Court to overturn rulings on Immigration, Affirmative Action, and the Voting Rights Act. CIR quickly gained support from anti-worker groups including “the Cato Institute, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund, and the Mackinac Center, a major force behind the 2012 anti-union legislation enacted in Michigan,” who filed amicus briefs to the Supreme Court on behalf of the plaintiff, Friedrichs.

The AFL-CIO and AFSCME also filed amicus briefs opposing this corporate funded attack on workers rights. Along with the AFL-CIO and AFSCME more than 70, civil and human rights groups, including the NAACP, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Women’s Law Center, and GLAD, filed their own amicus brief opposing this attack on workers.

“For nearly 40 years, unions have bargained to further opportunity for women, people of color, and LGBT workers,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “At a time of increasing inequality, and when the odds are increasingly in favor of the wealthy and against the American worker, we urge the Court to adhere to its own precedent and reaffirm Abood so that unions representing all public sector workers, both members and non-members, may continue to effectively bargain for vital workplace benefits and protections.”

When workers stand together, we win. These attacks on our rights and freedoms have not gone unnoticed and will not stop us from continuing to organize to make the lives of working people better.

Public Workers Advance Common Good

As Supreme Court Prepares for Friedrichs v. CTA,
Public-Sector Workers Advance the Common Good  

WASHINGTON, DC – America’s working families are under attack from big corporate CEOs and wealthy special interests. These anti-worker attacks are designed to protect those at the very top who yield greater influence and profit, while hard-working families scrape by. One such attack is being led by corporate-funded groups at the US Supreme Court. These groups want to take away workers’ ability to speak up together.

The following are examples of public-sector workers using their voice on the job to help advance the common good in the face of these well-funded, extreme attacks.

Seattle Teachers Take a Stand for Class Size: Earlier this summer, thousands of teachers in Seattle, WA walked out of their classrooms in a series of protests, standing with parents against larger class sizes that would negatively impact students. Area teachers, who also stood up for good pay and benefits, received the support of Seattle area parents who cited solidarity with teachers on key issues.

West Virginia Teachers Lead the Way to Improve Local Schools: Beginning in 2011, teachers belonging to the American Federation of Teachers have organized an effort called ‘Reconnecting McDowell’, which focuses on improving education in McDowell County, WV. McDowell County, one of the poorest in the nation, has benefitted from a broad coalition of business, non-profits, government, and working people to bring new resources and expertise to West Virginia’s children.

Nurses Push for Higher Safety Standards in Midst of Health Crisis: During last year’s international Ebola crisis, nurses and first responders throughout the United States led the call for higher safety standards and better training. The calls, which included walkouts and protests, resulted in an advanced awareness among the general public of the dangers facing public servants, and efforts to improve conditions and preparation.

Working Families Step Up and Give Back in the Face of Disaster: From hurricanes to tornados, working families have stepped up over the years to rally their communities and give back in the wake of natural disasters. For example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, working people belonging to AFSCME, AFT, and other unions joined together to raise funds and awareness for those in need.  Beyond financial assistance, union members also pitched-in to assist with cleanup and rebuilding efforts throughout the impacted region.

Study Shows Teachers Spending Hard-Earned Money to Help Their Own Students: An August study by Public Opinion Strategies and Communities in Schools showed that over 90 percent of teachers reported spending their own money on school supplies for students in 2014. The study shows that teachers are going above-and-beyond at a time when families spend approximately $1,284 per high school student per year for supplies and extracurricular activities.

Postal Workers Offer Critical Services for Those In Need: The thousands of working people who make up our postal service don’t only deliver your packages and letters; they also play a significant role in standing up for those who need it most. Postal workers are leading an effort to provide an alternative to predatory payday lenders by expanding key services at US Postal Service locations such as payroll check cashing and bill payment. In addition, America’s letter carriers have collected more than 1.4 billion pounds of food in the last 24 years for needy families through their annual food drive.

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