I am not optimistic about how workers and unions are going to be treated by the administration in Washington and the Republicans who control it. Trump’s appointed Supreme Court Justice will soon cast the majority vote in a case that will strip from public sector unions the ability to enforce that non-members pay their fair share of the representation costs. This enables the “freeloaders” to take advantage of everything the union does, while not having to pay their fair share of the costs. That includes: negotiation of contracts, settlement of grievances, saving of jobs and lobbying elected-representatives who make the decisions about public contracts. Yes, even though they are not in the union, the union has to represent them, and they don’t pay a penny!
In Joint Council 7, we represent more than 15,000 public sector workers who will be affected negatively by this upcoming court decision. This type of decision, and perhaps future national legislation to promote Right-to-Work on a national basis, is designed to undermine the strength of unions by forcing them to represent people who don’t pay and don’t participate. It takes away funding from the workers’ organizations that are there to make sure those performing work for a company or public entity are treated fairly, are paid decent wages and benefits, and have a say in how their workplace is run.
Recently, I attended a California Federation of Labor meeting when more than 800 officials from Washington state, Oregon, California and Arizona, came together to discuss the possibility, and perhaps probability, that the Supreme Court case and Right-to-Work will soon affect us in the west. The western-states meeting was designed to discuss various ways to combat these destructive laws and how to prepare our members for the fight.
California, Oregon and Washington are three states that have a strong and vibrant labor movement. Here in California, we’ve won solid victories and have active and militant members, setting the stage for the nation when it comes to worker’s rights, legislation to protect those rights, and strong union contracts with good wages and superior benefits in both the public and private sectors.
Many states recently have passed Right-to-Work legislation, stripping workers’ strength to protect themselves. However, it would be a very difficult proposition to get this anti-worker legislation passed in these strong western states. So, the Republicans and the labor-haters are trying to formulate national legislation that would take the decision out of our hands and force it down our throats.
Make no mistake about it, this is a fight every union member who cares about how they are compensated, what types of benefits they have to protect their families, and what type of working conditions they have to toil under, has to get involved in. We are fighting for our lives in the workplace.
Our public sector members, who are working beside what are now referred to as “fair share payers,” need to talk with these people, and explain why all of the workers need to be going one way in supporting issues that are designed to improve their livelihoods and protect their families.
Organizing within our workplace has always been important but will now be the duty and responsibility of everyone if we want to keep what we have fought so hard for. In the private sector, it is a necessity for our members to go back to what has made the Teamsters the strongest and most feared union in the nation: mentoring our new members and making sure that they know what our more senior members fought for and accomplished. By passing down our message and what we stand for, and how important it is to stick together, we will continue to set the foundation for our strength and unity. These topics on how to combat the War on Workers will continue to be a theme of mine in the future, because I believe knowledge is power.
On a positive note, our Day at the Ballpark was another rousing success with over 3,000 members and their families enjoyed excellent BBQ, nice weather, a good game; and, most importantly, the camaraderie of all of us being together.
I want to end my column by sending my condolences and prayers to the families of our fallen brothers from Local 2785, who were employed at UPS, who were so brutally and unnecessarily taken from us last month. This was a senseless act and has destroyed families and lives of many members. The Joint Council and all of its Locals are working hard to support the families. We’ve established a fund to help them: All Charities Teamsters Memorial for W. Chan/M. Lefiti/B. Louis, c/o Teamsters Joint Council 7, 250 Executive Park Blvd., Suite 3100, San Francisco, CA 94134.
Workplace violence seems to be on the upswing. Make sure you keep your eyes and ears open and if you should see one of our fellow members in need of help, please let them know that help is available. TAP, at 510-562-3600, can assist or get them to someone who can help.