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Boosting Our Strength, Overcoming Opponents’ Tactics

Even before SCOTUS last February heard oral arguments, the billionaire backers behind the Janus vs. AFSCME Council 31 lawsuit were ratcheting-up their anti-union tactics. These shadowy special interests have since the high court’s decision in June poured millions into deceptive propaganda campaigns urging public employees to drop their membership.
“It’s heartening that working people have seen straight through these right-wing groups’ brazen attempts to destroy public sector unions,” said national AFT President Randi Weingarten. “In fact, our union is growing. Since Janus, we’ve had 11 organizing wins,” she added, referring to successful efforts to unite working people previously without a collective voice on the job.
Click here for recent in-depth reporting on the national right-wing scheme to defund unions.
BLS statistics show 2018 public sector union membership held strong at 7,167,000, nearly half of the total U.S. count of 14,721,000. All of the nation’s major labor groups representing school teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees have reported net growth over the past eight months.
“Union members have sent a clear message: we are sticking with the union,” said Weingarten.
At the same time, lower courts have increasingly sided with working people over special interests in the face of attempts to exploit the Janus decision. An increasing number of lawsuits seeking to further disenfranchise union members by asking judges to reverse pre-existing and sound law are failing to advance their anti-democratic agenda.
Click here for reporting on the Janus lawsuit lead plaintiff’s latest defeat in court.
“The facts and public opinion have always been on our side,” said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel (center in photo, above). “Courts are increasingly siding with employees, which is certainly welcome news. Regardless, we can’t rely on judges to fix an economy that’s not working for working and middle class families,” she added, referring to our state federation’s focus on member engagement and mobilization.
Click here for recent reporting on the growth of union density in Connecticut’s public sector that quotes Hochadel.
“If we want a stronger labor movement, it’s up to us,” said Hochadel, who previously worked in the state’s career and technical education system.
Nationally, AFT over the past year welcomed 88,500 new members in both the public and private sectors between new organizing and re-commitment efforts. Our state federation contributed nearly 600 to that number by uniting workers without collective bargaining rights and incorporating labor groups that had been either independent or associated with other unions. 
Several hundred more who previously maintained “fair share” fee-payer status signed-up as full members with AFT Connecticut affiliates representing their workplaces. The vast majority did so before the Janus decision in June, thanks to an internal engagement drive developed the year before. 
“Our members saw the shameless attempt to divide and conquer for what it was,” said Kristen Malloy-Scanlon (right in photo), who serves as president of our West Haven Federation of Teachers. “By the time the Supreme Court ruled, we were more unified than we’d been in years,” she added, referring to the 100% re-commitment rate her local union achieved.
Click here for additional photos of teachers in West Haven last year delivering the “U and I in Union” message. 
“The silver lining is that the scheme backfired and brought us closer together,” said Malloy-Scanlon, who teaches literacy at Savin Rock Community School in West Haven.
That unity has continued to grow and fuel Connecticut’s labor movement, despite a continued campaign by deep-pocketed special interests to weaken union members’ collective strength. The local State Policy Network’s (SPN) affiliate, the Yankee Institute for Public Policy (YIPP), last month doubled down on its propaganda targeting public employees by adding roadside billboards to its arsenal.
Click here for our previous report on wider attempts to deceive union members in Connecticut.
Across the country, there are further signs of a resurgent labor movement, fueled by public sector activism. 
The resistance led by federal employees during the recent government shutdown proved decisive in ending the crisis — and preventing a repeat three weeks later. The “Red for Ed” drive to restore public school funding to pre-recession levels is advancing state by state, with Tennessee educators among the latest to mobilize. Gains by professors and support staff in higher education have also continued, with faculty in Miami recently forming the largest union for adjuncts in the nation.
The momentum created in the past year demonstrates that the tactics employed by special interests hostile to working people can be overcome. It also signals the combination needed to secure a better future for our members, their families and communities — a unified front engaged in collective action.

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