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Fighting for the Free, Fair Choice to Organize in the Workplace

The General Assembly, for the first time since 2011, has taken up legislation to prohibit Connecticut private sector employers from forcing their workers to attend so-called “captive audience” meetings. The proposed bill, spearheaded by the state AFL-CIO, would protect employees from being subjected to speech at work concerning political or religious matters unrelated to their jobs.
AFT Connecticut Executive Vice President John Brady, RN (above) was among the many union leaders and rank-and-file members who last month testified in support of the initiative. Speaking before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Judiciary, he shared his own personal experience in captive audience meetings seven years ago while organizing fellow nurses at William W. Backus Hospital.
“Management holds all the power in an employer-employee relationship,” Brady told lawmakers, describing conditions before he and his co-workers voted “Union YES” in 2011. “Failure to comply with an employer directive means discipline, discharge and loss of income and security,” he added.
“No one should go through what I did,” said Brady, who went on to serve as the first president of our affiliated Backus Federation of Nurses. “No one should have their constitutional rights to organize jeopardized in such a way.”
Click here for Brady’s complete testimony to the committee.
The judiciary committee earlier this month passed the bill favorably by a vote of 25 to 14. The legislation has since been scheduled for a floor vote by the full state House of Representatives.
Click here for press reporting on efforts to pass this commonsense reform in Connecticut.
Our national union, working with partners across the country, at the same time has mobilized members to resist the proposed roll-back of a key federal labor law reform. 
The NLRB in December issued a formal request for input (RFI) from the public on a proposal to scrap the 2014 rule updating the process for union representation elections.  The board’s Republican appointees supported the RFI, while the board’s Democratic members dissented, saying the request wasn’t properly justified.
“It’s difficult for workers to get a fair union election without facing employer intimidation,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said last week ahead of a final push for comments. “Now, President Trump’s NLRB wants to change the rules so that it’s even harder to have a voice on the job,” she added in her e-mail alert to members.
More than 10,000 members of AFT-affiliated unions across the country responded before this week’s deadline, urging the federal labor agency to leave the fair election rules in place.
Click here for press reporting on the proposed rule change.
“We saw the difference these fair election rules made firsthand at our clinic,” said Dr. Irving Buchbinder, DPM, the president of our affiliated Licensed Professionals at Community Health Services (LPACHS). “Our medical and dental assistants faced less management interference than we did in our own vote two years earlier. The key factor was the timeline; our employer wasn’t able to drag out the process for the aides like they did before the new rules were in place,” added Buchbinder.
Buchbinder’s comments are backed up by findings from the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which has advocated for greater transparency and efficiency in union representation elections. Their research found that since the 2014 rule, votes are now held a median of 23 days after workers petition to organize, compared to the previous 38-day wait.
Click here for EPI’s comments to the NLRB on the proposed rule change.
This advocacy for working people to freely choose to unite for a voice on the job takes place at a critical crossroads for America’s labor movement. 
While the fair election rules were a major step forward, the vast majority of organizing drives are met with more than simple delay tactics. In the private sector, efforts to improve working conditions through collective action are typically met with professional “union busters” who employ coercion, intimidation and harassment to suppress workplace democracy.
At the same time, union members in the public sector face unprecedented threats to their ability to maintain the kind of protections that have prevented such tactics in their workplaces. A special interest-funded lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court seeks to weaken the united voices of the nation’s teachers, fire fighters, health inspectors and other dedicated civil servants.
Click here for more on our labor federation’s wider member mobilization efforts at this crossroads for the movement.

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