Since June 27, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Janus v. AFSCME that non-members of public-sector unions no longer have to pay fair-share fees, NYSUT organizers have learned something: People want to stay in their unions.
Through intensive, face-to-face outreach, the union has collected more than 230 new members and only nine drops since the decision, Second Vice President Paul Pecorale told participants in the Local Action Project in Saratoga Springs.
“We are at a moment in time that is going to define the labor movement going forward,” Pecorale said.
The union saw this coming and prepared for it. Over the past year, NYSUT Member Organizing Institute participants have knocked on more than 100,000 doors.
“We’ve been planning for this decision for years,” said NYSUT Political Director Melinda Person. “We’re planning now for the next 50 years. We will be here. Workers will always rise up against the boss if they are mistreated. We’re planning for the next 50 years of NYSUT and what that is going to look like.”
We are still a union, said General Counsel Bob Reilly, “but the battleground has moved from the courthouse to the schoolhouse, and you all are on the front lines.”
Wealth-backed, anti-union campaigns have sprouted in email inboxes all over the country, many tied to the Mackinac Center, telling union members the big lie that they can opt out to save money and lose nothing. Mackinac is sponsored by the DeVos, Koch and Walton families, among others, all of whom are anti-union and anti-public education.
LAP locals tend to have a slightly higher percentage of member recommitment than the state — which is about 85 percent, so far — but they are committed to continuing the union drive.
“Communications has been one of our keys,” said Lori Griffin of Copenhagen TA, which has re-signed every member. She said members want to know what their union has done for them. The union has to tell them, because nobody else will. It’s important to have a network of communications and “make friends” with the local press, she said.
“It’s absolutely vital that you showcase what you’re doing as a union in solidarity with your community. … You won’t have a lot of issues with your card signing if people can actually see what you’ve done through your union’s communications people.”
But getting cards signed doesn’t mean the work is done.
“Once you have the card signed, that’s just the beginning,” said Angie Pace, the NYSUT labor relations specialist working with the Newburgh TA LAP team. Newburgh has nearly 100 percent of members signed up but: “...we want to continue to reach out, and that takes some strategizing.”