Thursday, December 14, 2017
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Plainedge Federation of Teachers,
I hope everyone is looking forward to a wonderful holiday recess and having the chance to spend some time with friends and family. As the New Year begins, we are given an opportunity to reflect and be thankful for all the positive aspects of our lives. Outside of family and friends, one of the things I am most thankful for is that I live in a state where workers enjoy the right to form a union and collectively bargain for better wages and benefits. There are many places around the country where public sector workers' pay and benefits have stagnated for years, or even worse, declined. We are lucky here in NYS, where due to powerful unions and collective bargaining rights, teachers and other public sector employees enjoy some of the highest wages and best benefits in the country.
Unfortunately, there are many large corporations and special interest groups in this country who would like to see our rights and benefits diminished. In addition, there are many politicians and business leaders who believe we should do away with union benefits like tenure, seniority, pensions, and of course, collective bargaining rights. In January of 2018, the Supreme Court is going to hear oral arguments on a case which could have severe consequences for unions across the country, should it result in an unfavorable ruling. The main issue in the Supreme Court case, Janus vs. AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees), is whether or not public sector unions are entitled to collect a fair share (agency) fee from non-union members to be represented by the union. In states like NY that still have public sector unions, non-members get to enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining, but they MUST pay a fee for union services. An unfavorable ruling, in this case, could disrupt our union's ability to collect fees for its work, which would destroy our union's capacity to function and protect our rights.
So, how do we combat this extreme attack on unions and our rights? Unfortunately, the organizations backing the fight against unions are very well funded and have been able to buy a lot of political influence and power with their almost limitless supply of money. In the Janus case, for example, the plaintiffs are represented by the Liberty Justice Center (LJC), and their funding list reads like a who's who of corporate America's organized opposition to labor. A number of those funders, not surprisingly, enjoy the support of Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who are longtime advocates of anti-labor efforts.
The only chance that we have to maintain all the benefits that our union brothers and sisters have fought for over the last 50 years is to educate ourselves on the importance of unions and remain united by maintaining 100% membership in the PFT. The Supreme Court may be able to take away our right to a fair share fee for our services, but it cannot take away our right to belong to a strong and vibrant union.
Over the next couple of months, your PFT leadership, at all levels, will be presenting an abundant amount of information on the Janus case, as well as what to expect in the wake of an unfavorable ruling. Please take the time to read the material so that you can understand the important decisions you will be asked to make about your union membership in the coming months. It is my hope that together, we will use our loud and clear united voice to let the Supreme Court and corporate America know that unions in America are here to stay!
If you should have any questions about how the Janus decision might affect our union, please do not hesitate to contact anyone of your building leaders or me in the PFT office at your convenience.
I wish all of our members and their families a very happy and healthy holiday season! I look forward to seeing many of you at our upcoming Wizards event in March and The We Make a Difference Awards Night in April. In Solidarity.