Never Quit

1-19-2016

People who work in public service never stop.

There’s no quitting on the people who depend on us.

When you’re part of AFSCME, we never quit on each other.

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a case called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.  The case is bankrolled by the Center for Individual Rights, a front group for wealthy anti-union extremists.  If our opponents prevail, America will become a “right-to-work” nation for public employees.  What happened to workers in Wisconsin could happen nationwide this spring.

The verdict is expected by June.  Oral arguments were heard January 11 and the media coverage is right – it did not go well for our side.  A conservative bloc of justices appeared openly hostile to us, including Justice Scalia who we consider a swing vote in this case.  That said, we don’t want to jump to conclusions.

If unions lose dues, workers lose power

The issue before the court isn’t whether teachers’ unions are beneficial or harmful.  It is whether public unions may charge all employees – members and nonmembers alike – for the costs of negotiating their wages, benefits and working conditions.  These mandatory fees prevent the problem of free-riders, employees who enjoy raises and other benefits provided by the union without paying for them, leaving their co-workers to pick up the tab.  These are known as “fair-share” fees.  Right now, nonmembers only pay these costs – they are not compelled to pay for AFSCME’s political or ideological activities.

But the plaintiffs say being required to pay anything at all to the union violates their First Amendment rights.  And when the government is the employer, they argue, all union activities are inherently political, even mileage between job sites.  Their argument ignores reason and precedent.

The case threatens to undermine a four-decade-old ruling that has upheld a key source of funding for public-sector unions. If unions lose dues, workers will lose power.  It’s really that simple.  The plaintiffs intend to cripple AFSCME’s ability to fight for wages and benefits and to protect quality public services.  

We never quit on each other

The wealthy extremists don’t know us; they think we’re quitters.  We never quit.  We’re a union committed to our members, to each other, to our communities, and to public service.   

Minnesota’s communities never rest.  Streets need plowing.  Families need care.  Students deserve well-run schools, and our neighborhoods demand safety.  That’s why people who work in public service never stop.  This isn’t just a job.  It’s a calling.  Nobody does this work for the money or the limelight.  It’s hard work, and it’s largely unsung.  The work matters because it means something to make a community better.  In fact, it means everything.

At AFSCME, we believe that every person working to sustain their community deserves respect.  We show ours through action – fighting to secure opportunity for our members wherever, or whoever, they are.  We negotiate better pay and benefits because fighting for every member’s future is a form of respect.  We educate about the issues that keep working families up at night because informed advocates command respect.  And we organize because individuals who build power together earn respect.

When people in public service connect, big things happen: Fairness.  Equality.  Democracy.  AFSCME is the union that honors solidarity without conformity – drawing each member’s story into a force of experience and commitment that can’t be ignored.  That’s how we win better lives for ourselves, our families, our communities, and our country.  For people proudly committed to public service, we never quit.

We all hope for a positive outcome in Friedrichs.  But we also know that hope is not a plan.  It’s time for us to double down on our internal organizing efforts.  If we do that, we will emerge from this challenge as a stronger union – regardless of what the Supreme Court does.

Eliot Seide

Executive Director