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Mobilizing to “Protect Our Freedom to Negotiate”

The Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Council 31 lawsuit is an attempt to weaponize the judicial system in order to weaken the labor movement. The plaintiff’s attorneys on Monday made a constitutionally flawed argument that a single individual’s complaint should undermine the millions of working people across the country who benefit from collective bargaining. 
Click here for a comprehensive analysis of Monday’s hearing in the Janus case.
The lawsuit seeks to ban “fair share” fees contributed by non-members for the union benefits they are required to receive under state labor laws, like those here in Connecticut. The special interests who successfully pushed the case all the way to the nation’s high court are betting on a ruling that would hobble the labor movement nationally.
Beginning Saturday morning and continuing through Monday afternoon, working people by the thousands came together in cities across the country to defend their freedoms targeted by the CEOs behind Janus. Their message was loud and clear; the “U and I in Union” makes us strong.
“Investment in unions has an exponential factor,” Ashley Robinson (right) told a crowd Monday on the University of Connecticut’s main campus in Storrs. The chief representative for our affiliated UConn Professional Employees Association (UCPEA) explained that a union “is a collective; you get more than you put in. Our communities and society all benefit from strong unions,” added Robinson, who works as the assistant director of residence education at the state’s flagship public college.
Robinson was one of several union leaders who rallied approximately 200 of her colleagues and students at one of four simultaneous demonstrations organized in cities across Connecticut. The Storrs event was coordinated by the UConn Labor Coalition, which includes the ten local unions representing university system faculty and staff.
Click here for press coverage of the rally at UConn.
Public employees like Robinson and her co-workers may be in the crosshairs of the Janus lawsuit’s architects. But many in the private sector who attended and spoke at Monday’s rallies echoed her call for collective action, demonstrating the unity of the entire movement at this pivotal crossroads.
IB Image“We all benefit from the union difference,” Janice Stauffer, RN (left), told the gathering outside the Government Center in downtown Stamford. “Wages rise and benefits improve even for non-members when people within the same industry organize,” explained the president of our Danbury Nurses Union Unit 47. “That’s why we all must stand with our sisters and brothers who are teachers, firefighters and state workers,” added Stuaffer, who cares for patients in Danbury Hospital’s intensive care unit.
The demonstration where Stauffer spoke was coordinated by SEIU Local 32BJ, a union whose membership works in the property services industry — the majority in the private sector.
Click here for press coverage of the Stamford rally.
The largest of Connecticut’s demonstrations took place in Hartford, where nearly 400 union members chanting “We Rise!” on the steps of the state’s highest court added potent symbolism. The event was coordinated by several unions in the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC), which collectively represents over 40,000 workers.
IB Image“We’ve been mobilizing to protect our freedom to negotiate for more than three years,” said Ally Sexton (right) after attending the demonstration. “I’ve been focused on our own union, so it was uplifting to rally alongside all of SEBAC,” explained the member of our Administrative & Residual (A&R) Employees Union’s representative assembly. “The show of force was a powerful reminder that we rise together,” added Sexton, an attorney in the state transportation department’s office of legal services.
Click here for press reporting on the Hartford demonstration.
As Robinson, Stauffer and Sexton rallied with fellow union members, AFT Connecticut leaders prepared to launch our “U and I in Union” member engagement project. The effort is part of our 2018 strategic plan and aims to spotlight personal stories of how collective action has made a positive difference in the lives of individuals.
Click here for our previous report on development of the strategic plan.
The antidote to the poison pill that would be an adverse decision in the Janus lawsuit is an engaged membership. Demonstrating how unity and commitment have overcome indifference and apathy in the past can help build strength for defending our movement’s gains in the future.
Click here to watch and share the campaign’s first video, featuring Public Employees, PreK-12 and Healthcare union leaders sharing how solidarity works.

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