Four big unions with tens of thousands of members who are public workers – AFSCME, the Service Employees and the nation’s two teachers unions – are trading information and tips on how to combat the impact of a looming anti-union ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court. And even though the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia may postpone the court’s decision on Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, the four will keep working jointly on public relations and legal strategy, adds Paul Booth, top assistant to AFSCME President Lee Saunders. The case was a big topic at the AFL-CIO’s recent Executive Council meeting in San Diego. More than one-third of public workers, including teachers, Fire Fighters and state and local workers, are unionized, and their numbers are just under half of all union members nationwide. Eliminating funds from those members – the stated objective of the right wing sponsors of the Friedrichs case – would drastically hurt the nation’s union movement and its ability to defend all workers, union and non-union alike. Booth said the four unions have talked about sharing work in “re-organizing” members to prevent the defection of masses of potential “free riders,” but that each is working on its own internal organizing plan. “But there’s a lots of candor and a lots of mutual trust. There’s a widespread recognition that we’re all in this together,” he added.
- Mark Gruenberg, PAI