BY JOHN JOHNSON/ President, Transit Workers Union Local 234
Across the nation, anti-union governors and state legislatures are seeking extensive, structural changes to weaken the bargaining power and political influence of unions. Many Republican legislatures have promoted bills intended to weaken unions. So far, they focussed on building trades and public sector unions.
Fourteen states have introduced legislation against the building-trades unions. They are restricting Project Labor Agreements, which are agreements to pay union rates on construction projects in return for labor peace. Eleven states have bills attacking prevailing wage laws. Both of these laws protect building-trades union standards.
At least 28 states passed legislation for charter-school and voucher bills that weaken public-school unions. This is part of the attack on public-sector unions. Other states, including Pennsylvania, have bills to privatize most school services, along with bills to privatize public transportation, water supply, port authorities, airport security, liquor distribution, prisons and prison medical services, Medicaid delivery, state-park vendors, kindergarten development and evaluation, and every municipal service imaginable, including even administering a state lottery.
At least 10 states have introduced so-called “paycheck protection” measures. These measures are designed to limit the use of voluntary union member contributions for political purposes, while placing few, if any, restrictions on corporate political spending.
Responding to these attacks, labor is placed in a defensive position of trying to protect the gains we have struggled and fought for. While each of us as labor leaders naturally tends to focus on our own issues, we must start standing together and fight for our unions.
Our elected officials expect to hear from teachers when an education issue arises. They expect to hear from the building trades when a prevailing-wage issue comes up. They expect to hear from the UFCW when they attempt to privatize the liquor stores. But they don’t expect to hear from a transit worker on any of these issues. We all have as much to gain and lose on these issues as those who are the direct object of these attacks.
That has to change! We must start cross-lobbying.
This was my message during the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Legislative Conference. “Cross-lobbying” means when an issue threatens one group of union workers, union members from transit, hotel and hospitality services, the building trades, city services, law enforcement, education, janitorial services and all other parts of labor speak out to legislators about them, stand up at rallies with them and do whatever it takes to help our brothers and sisters win their struggles.
Cross-lobbying means we recognize if teachers lose job security, their hard0-fought wages and benefits and the right to strike and to have a union speak for them, then our children are the ones to suffer. We have a stake in their struggle.
Cross-lobbying means we recognize if a police officer or firefighter has to fight to maintain a decent living, it affects our safety, the security of our homes and neighborhoods and the wellbeing of our family.
These are just a few examples of how the struggles of our brothers and sisters affect us. We must take these struggles personally and let them move us to action.
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