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February 2018


3/3 and our past, present & future: The FA Organizing Institute
Kevin Peterman


MLK was pro-union, anti-right to work


Welcome back to what we believe will be a very interesting semester. This is the defining year for labor—and specifically for public sector unions. That means us!

This spring the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, a case we discussed in the December 2017 issue of The WORD. The core debate is over the concept of fair share, or agency fees, and we expect a decision this term. Depending on the ruling, we could be in for a real battle for our survival.


3/3 and Our
Past, Present & Future:
The FA Organizing Institute

On Saturday, March 3, from 9:30 am to 1 pm at the NYSUT Regional Office in Hauppauge, the FA will host an Organizing Institute in which participants will
  • learn about the status of the Janus case
  • explore potential impacts of Janus on the FA
  • examine ways to preserve and shape the future of the FA.
A core goal is to not only listen to member concerns but also develop a core group of FA organizers to reach out to the entire membership in the coming months.
And, with the contract negotiations just around the corner, we invite ALL members to contact us about attending. Space is limited, but we welcome FA leaders and activists, rank-and-file members and healthy skeptics alike to contact one of the FA officers to learn more.

The AFL-CIO addresses the Janus case in their Internal Organizing Toolkit:

What is fair share?

"Fair share" means all workers who are protected by the terms of a collective bargaining agreement share in the cost of negotiating and administering those protections. Union members pay union dues and nonmembers pay fair share fees. (No worker may be required to join a union.) Fair share arrangements are legal in the private sector in 22 states and in the public sector in about half of the states.

What happens if the Supreme Court outlaws fair share?

If the Supreme Court decides that fair share in the public sector is unconstitutional, unions and employers will be required to immediately stop collecting fair share fees from nonmembers.

Thus, as long as FA members continue to be members and pay dues, our union will be able to survive and continue to provide all the benefits of the FA contract and Benefit Fund supplemental benefits.

There is some concern that the Supreme Court could make an even more damaging decision. If it rules that it’s unconstitutional for any members to be required to pay dues, some union members may simply stop paying dues—effectively turning us into a right-to-work state. This is what crippled many unions in Michigan and Wisconsin, and it could have a devastating effect on the FA and its ability to function as your union.

The FA is strong because we are strong, and it is that strength that allows us and the many faculty who came before us to fight for and win the rights and protections afforded under our contract. Pause and think for a moment: Without the union, where would you be? The academic, professional, financial and health benefits we enjoy today are the result of our collective activism through the years.

We know that the union movement built the middle class. We cannot let a potential Janus decision strip our rights to collectively bargain—and we won’t. We will push back with everything we have and we are counting on your continued support and membership.

There is good news. Recently the Economic Policy Institute reported that "the Bureau of Labor Statistics released data on changes in union membership from 2016 to 2017.... Three-fourths of these gains (198,000) were among workers aged 34 and under." You can read more here. It's great that workers are realizing the value of unions. Let’s not lose sight of what we have gained over the years and what we have to lose.

slight curve ahead; keep moving forward  
The decision of the Supreme Court in the Janus case will shape the future of the FA. Now is the time to help us keep moving forward. Contact us about the FA Organizing Institute or other ways to get involved. (graphic by Cynthia Eaton)

Now more than ever, we need your input, your involvement and your activism. There are two ways to get involved now.

First, the FA is hosting an organizing institute on Saturday, March 3. As noted in the sidebar above, this will be held at the NYSUT Regional Office, and participants will learn about the Janus case and its potential impacts as well as examine ways to preserve and shape the future of our union.

With contract negotiations on the horizon, we welcome all FA members to attend. Space is limited, so contact one of the FA officers today to learn more. If you'd like to attend but cannot, you might still be able to become an FA organizer.

Second, if you're unable to participate in "3/3 and Our Past, Present & Future:
The FA Organizing Institute," be sure to work with the FA organizers who approach you later in the semester to get your input on these issues. We will be visiting all the campuses—days, evenings and weekends.

WE NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU. Your input is critical, talking to one of our FA organizers won't take long and your feedback will help define the shape of our union for years to come so we can continue to enjoy the benefits of union membership.