Within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Janus v. AFSCME case, union-haters launched a shadowy misinformation campaign in an attempt to get public employees to leave their union. They started emailing nurses, firefighters, teachers, and other hardworking New Yorkers who provide important services every day, and launched a website targeting our members with their propaganda.
It came as no surprise. We have said all along, the Janus case is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to silence the voice of working men and women and their unions. This case was never about a man named Mark Janus. It was, and continues to be, an attack by right-wing ideologues who know that when working people join together, they have the power to improve their wages, benefits and working conditions. And that is exactly what these corporate special interests are afraid of.
Motive Not ‘Education’
Anti-labor groups, operating in the shadows, refuse to say who is funding their campaign and claim to simply want to “inform” and “help” public employees by providing step-by-step instructions on how they can leave the union. They claim they are not trying to influence public employees, just “educate” them. It’s laughable, and frankly insulting to our members.
If these outside groups suddenly feel a need to “educate” public employees, then why don’t they join us in giving working men and women a voice in the workplace? Why don’t they join us and “help” public employees earn a better living and improve their working conditions? That’s the kind of “help and education” working people appreciate. That is how you grow the middle class—by speaking up together and raising the standard of living and quality of life for all workers.
We know that because here in New York State, we have the strongest and most-successful statewide labor movement in the country. We added an additional 75,000 members to the labor movement last year.
And our members know it.
They know that by being a member of a union, their median yearly income will be $11,000 more than non-union workers. They know that by being a member of a union, they are far more likely to have health-insurance coverage and a pension. They know that by being a member of a union, they have a better chance of achieving the American Dream.
Governor Cuomo recently announced the state Department of Labor has issued guidelines for public employers in the wake of the Janus decision. Those guidelines and clarifications are necessary because of these anti-union misinformation campaigns. It will ensure all public employers honor the law and the rights of their employees.
Choice is Nothing New
Public employees have always had a choice to become a union member or not. The Janus decision doesn’t change that.
Our opponents are salivating over the hope that the Janus decision will defund and defang unions, I have news for them: you’re in for a big disappointment.
Unions are family. We are a group of people who care about one another, help one another and support one another. And, like a family, if you pick on one of us, you pick on all of us.
We are ready for this fight and for the next one. In fact, these attacks will only make our family stronger and more determined than ever to stand up, fight back and make our voices heard.
So while our opponents continue to try to divide working people, we will continue to unite them and build an even-more-vibrant labor movement that will result in a thriving middle class.
Mr. Cilento is president of New York State AFL-CIQ, a federation of 3,000 affiliated public-sector, private-sector, and building-trades unions throughout the state representing 2.5 million members, retirees and their families. The State Federation, which is the largest and most diverse in the country, is committed to helping working families achieve a better life. For more information on the Labor Movement in New York, visit www.nysaflcio.org.
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