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Responding to Attacks on “Our Rights and Freedoms”

A teacher, firefighter, paraeducator, security officer, administrative assistant and mental health worker stood on the steps of the state Supreme Court to deliver the message, “we’re sticking with our union!” The Hartford event, which took on the appearance of a labor rally, left no doubt about members’ commitment to each other and their communities.
 
Click here for reporting on yesterday’s press conference.
 
Among those speaking was Shellye Davis (above), co-president of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated Hartford Federation of Paraeducators. She put the decision in context by reminding reporters of the radical special interests who bankrolled the lawsuit in the first place.
 
“Dark money donors weaponized the courts to try to take us down,” said Davis, who also serves as an AFT Connecticut vice president. “They’re the ones who pushed the Janus lawsuit, specifically to weaken unions like mine and silence the voices of all paraeducators, classroom support staff and millions of other public employees,” she added.
 
Davis’ comments refer to reactionary zealots like the Koch brothers, whose network funded this latest challenge to the Supreme Court’s unanimous 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. They have openly vowed to “defund and defang” unions, and the Janus lawsuit was but one of their many deceptive tactics.
 
Click here for investigative reporting on the broader campaign to weaken America’s labor movement.
 
“We’ve been warning for months about what to expect next from billionaire-funded anti-union groups,” said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel. “Our members are ready to resist the scheme to divide working people and silence our voices. They understand the coming PR campaign is paid for by the same special interests opposing everything we stand for,” added Hochadel, who previously taught in the state’s technical high schools.
 
Hochadel’s comments refer to attempts discovered in late May by out-of-state special interests to get their hands on Connecticut public employees’ personal information. In response, we launched a petition drive to bring the issue to candidates for legislative and statewide office this November — and demand they declare “whose side they’re on.”
 
Click here to sign and share the online version of the petition.
 
“We’re as committed as ever to a basic principle; the ‘U and I in Union’ makes us strong,” said Sal Escobales, president of our New Britain Federation of Teachers. “Since last summer, we’ve been organizing to build the strength to protect our rights and our freedoms no matter how this lawsuit was decided. No court case, no right-wing billionaire and no propaganda campaign is going to keep us down,” added Escobales, a history teacher at New Britain High School.
 
Escobales’ comments refer to the coordinated series of membership engagement activities in the lead-up to yesterday’s high court decision. Among the most visible have been the numerous photos shared on social media of educators, healthcare professionals and state employees wearing “U & I in Union” stickers in their workplaces.
 
Click here for photos of Escobales and his colleagues delivering the message in their schools.
 
The Janus ruling throws a national spotlight on unions and provides a moment of unprecedented opportunity for us to recommit to each other and organize new members. Support for the labor movement has risen to its highest level in years — and public employees in particular, are more determined than ever to stick together.
 
As the fall elections approach, members of AFT Connecticut-affiliated unions are gearing up to support champions who share their values and will stand up for working people. Our petition drive is a step toward accomplishing those objectives — but even more critical will be grassroots political volunteerism in the weeks and months ahead.
 
Click here to learn more about the lawsuit and access information and tools to resist the forces that funded it.
 
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