Key to Protecting Our Future? Look Beyond Our Bargaining Unit
I recently had the opportunity to attend the 2019 AFT Collective Bargaining Conference with Bill and Ivonne in Baltimore. The experience provided a better understanding of the fundamental concepts of what we as a union are trying to accomplish.
It’s about more than our 2,700+ members and UConn Health. It’s about more than the underfunded pension and the fringe differential. It’s about more than steps and copays. Those are all important, but what about the long game?
We have a great many shared values with the community we serve, and being visible and present in the community is a great way to forge alliances and build a positive narrative – that our work is important and the public benefits from it.
The time to cultivate and nurture strong relationships outside of the bargaining unit is today, not the day before we need allies to take up a common cause and stand with us.
We still have a fantastic contract, and we have it better than many working people in our state. It makes for an easy narrative: “Those workers get what we don’t get, we should take that away.” But what if we could get to a place where the narrative instead was, “Those workers get what all working people deserve, we should fight for that too.”?
That’s how adversaries can become allies.
The benefits we enjoy as a result of the labor movement’s history of hard-fought battles are a blessing, but it’s easy to take them for granted and overlook the obligations that come with it. Those obligations include holding up our end of the contract and defending it, of course; they also include carrying on the legacy of collective bargaining and leading by example to support what’s right for all working people – even those not covered by our contract.
If the working conditions, wages, benefits, and rights of those around us crumble, ours won’t be far behind. And don’t think there aren’t plenty of people who would jump at the opportunity to take away our collective bargaining rights when that day comes.
There are many examples of building solidarity with the community: the West Virginia teachers’ strike, the organization of the nurses at Munson Healthcare in Michigan, and most notably, right in our own backyard – What impact do you think community support had on settling the Stop and Shop strike?
One of the most fulfilling things about being a union activist is having a small place on the labor movement’s timeline, to better understand the struggles of the past and use what we’ve learned from them to benefit the working people of today and tomorrow.
UHP Vice President for Communication