Novemner 2, 2015
BY MICAH LANDAU
NEW YORK TEACHER
The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association have joined together with other public sector unions to combat the right’s attempt to use a case before the U.S. Supreme Court to hamstring them financially by abolishing agency fees for public-sector workers, UFT President Michael Mulgrew reported to the Delegate Assembly on Oct. 14.
Mulgrew said a loss in the case, Friedrichs California Teachers Association, which he described as a “Hail Mary pass by the people who hate us,” would drastically diminish organized labor’s ability to support its members and to defend the middle class and public services including education.Friedrichs is another attempt by “a small group of people who are determined to destroy the middle class in this country because they know that they can collect more wealth for themselves,” he said.That small group, Mulgrew noted, includes the hedge fund-backed “education reformers” with whom teachers unions have battled for years.“People understand that the education reformers’ ideas have failed,” Mulgrew told the delegates.
“But it was never about their ideas. It was always about destabilizing the unions.”Labor unions are a target of the education reformers, he said, because “it’s just organized labor that has been able to stand up to them.”Mulgrew also exposed what he called the lie at the heart of their anti-union argument. “They will tell people that you must be part of the union,” he said. “It is absolutely not true.”As Mulgrew explained, teachers and other workers in unionized jobs can sign a card to become a dues-paying union member or can choose not to join the union and instead pay an agency fee to cover the cost of union-provided services they receive, such as subsidized workshops, the ability to file grievances; negotiations on their behalf; and all the other rights safeguarded in the collective-bargaining agreement.The other two unions in the national coalition are the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Service Employees International Union.