California Educator

August / September 2018

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Page 48 of 71

"My experience is that people will read- ily sign, because they 're already union members and they get it," Roche said. "I understand that people have [problems] with unions, but you have to look at the overall good. The facts are that people that are represented by unions tend to do better in terms of salaries and benefits and treatment." For IF P TE's organi z ers, th e st ake s are summed up by Flint, Michigan , a city stripped of a robust public sector and laid bare to privatizers. Flint's lead- c o n t a m i n a t e d w a t e r d i s a s t e r w a s notoriously abetted by Republican Gov- ernor Rick Snyder's widely condemned emergency manager legislation, drafted with Mackinac Center help. The irony that the same money from Mackinac's bil- lionaire funders (Betsy and Dick DeVos, the Walton family, the Koch brothers) is also behind Janus and California's union- busting campaigns is not lost on IFPTE or Ken Jacobs, chair of UC Berkeley's Cen- ter for Labor Research and Education. " Unions have b een a central v oice in stopping privatization , the central voice in assuring quality public services," observed Jacobs. "Look at the Koch broth- ers, w ho have been funding both th e anti-union efforts with other billionaires and conservative foundations — their long-term goal had been to destroy pub- lic services and shrink government. So unions are an essential part of our demo- cratic system, our democracy." This abridged story originally ran in For the full version, go to To learn how to fight back against privatizing efforts, turn the page. years, and the response from organized labor might represent a paradigm shift that could transform public-sector orga- nizing in the post-Janus world. California has already erupted in a virtual fever of u n i o n o rga n i z i n g a n d m e m b e r s h i p - building unseen since the public-sector labor movement's formative heyday in the 1960s and '70s. "The plan is to talk with every single member every year about what the union means, and about recommitting to our union and our fight for public education," explained UTLA's strategic research and analytics director Grace Regullano. "It's not just that you give us money and we go do the work for you. It's that we are building power together." "[Janus] is lighting a fire under us," said Los Angeles County Federation of Labor's organizing director, Chloe Osmer. "It's put us at a crossroads of sorts. We under- stand that because of the attacks on our resources and budgets, we have to do things differently." e actions are paying off. In 2016, 82 percent of UTLA members voted to raise their annual dues by about a third, to $1,000. ough Regullano wouldn't share specific numbers for UTLA's ongoing "All In" membership campaign ("to deny the Mackinac Center and the Freedom Foun- dation a roadmap"), she estimated that organizers had successfully "cut in half " the number of fee payers who had opted out of joining UTLA before the campaign. That jibes with the net membership gains reported around the state by other organizing efforts. If public-sector organizers have an ace in the hole, it may well be public employ- ees themselves. Said Osmer, "e idea is not just 'Let's go out and sign up people to join the union,' but 'Let's identify and recruit new leaders within existing union members and strengthen our network of member leadership.' … How do we do it in a way that really builds long-term capac- ity and strength for the labor movement?" The Mackinac Center and Freedom Foundation are betting that unionized workers, now " freed" by the Supreme Court, will behave like neoliberal "ratio- nal actors" by defecting en masse from dues-paying to free-riding, thereby bleed- ing the unions. But the recommitment successes California organizers claim to have racked up suggest that the language of the marketplace might be an alien tongue for a workforce in public service. San Francisco's International Fed- eration of Professional and Technical Engin eers (IF P TE) L o cal 21 m emb er Anna Roche is a special projects manager for the city's Public Utilities Commission, working on climate change-related issues. But she began her career in the private sector as an environmental biologist until a stint as a Peace Corps volunteer made it personally impossible for her to return. "Dealing with clients that only cared about making money and didn't have any interest in protecting the environment wasn't very fulfilling for me," she reflected. "I feel a greater sense of pride and ful- f i l lm ent knowing that ... we're doing important work to protect the city against changes related to climate change." As a volunteer organizer for Local 21's "Conversations and Cards" campaign, Roche is at the center of one of California labor's most successful post- Janus recom- mitment drives. The campaign claims i t h a s a l re a dy i n c re a s e d h e r l o c a l 's dues-paying membership 11 percent from pre-Janus levels to today's 91 percent. " The plan is to talk with every single member in our union every year about what the union means, and about recommitting to our union and our fight for public education." — Grace Regullano, UTLA 47 A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R 2 018 A

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