Supreme Court Union Bargaining Decision and the Impact on Western Mass Unions | Connecting Point


>>>A MAJOR CHANGE FOR UNIONS
LAST MONTH. GOVERNMENT WORKERS WHO DON’T
WANT TO JOIN A UNION WON’T HELP PAY FOR COLLECTIVE BARGAINING. THAT’S WHAT THE SUPREME COURT
DECIDED IN A 5-4 RULING. MAKING NONMEMBERS PAY FOR UNION
ACTIVITY VIOLATES THEIR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS, JUSTICES IN
THE MAJORITY SAID. WHAT MIGHT THIS MEAN FOR UNIONS
IN THIS REGION? SHEILA GILMOUR, VICE PRESIDENT
OF THE UNIVERSITY STAFF ASSOCIATION AT THE UNIVERSITY OF
MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST, SHARED HER THOUGHTS WITH ME IN THE
STUDIO.>>THEY’VE BEEN TRYING TO GET
CASES THROUGH THE SUPREME COURT FOR A LONG TIME NOW. A FEW YEARS AGO IT WAS —
WE THOUGHT THAT WAS GOING TO BE THE END, EXCEPT JUSTICE SCALIA
DIED UNEXPECTEDLY AND IT ENDED UP BEING A 4-4 DECISION, SO IT
WENT BACK DOWN TO THE LOWER COURTS AND WAS UPHELD. BUT WE KNEW THIS WAS COMING. ESPECIALLY AFTER PRESIDENT TRUMP
HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO APPOINT A SUPREME COURT JUSTICE INSTEAD OF
PRESIDENT OBAMA. WE SAW THE WRITING ON THE WALL.>>SO IN SEEING THE WRITING ON
THE WALL, HAD YOUR UNION BEEN MAKING ACCOMMODATIONS IN ADVANCE
OF ANTICIPATING THAT THIS WAS COMING OR MAKING ANY CHANGES AS
A RESULT OF THAT BEFORE THE DECISION CAME OUT?>>YES AND NO. I THINK THAT OUR LOCAL AND OUR
UNION HAS ALWAYS BEEN FOCUSED ON TAKING CARE OF OUR MEMBERS. SO WE HAD TO BE A LITTLE BIT
MORE FORTHCOMING ABOUT THAT AND REMINDING THEM, YOU KNOW, THIS
IS WHAT THE UNION DOES FOR YOU, AND WE’RE ALL VOLUNTEERS AND
WE’RE HERE TO HELP YOU. WHERE AS BEFORE MAYBE WE COULD
TAKE IT FOR GRANTED THAT WE DIDN’T HAVE TO SAY THAT, WE JUST
DID WHAT WE DID.>>SO MAYBE PEOPLE DIDN’T
UNDERSTAND WHAT THE UNION DOES FOR THEM, OR WHY DID YOU FEEL
THAT YOU NEEDED TO RELATE THAT INFORMATION TO THEM?>>JUST IN CASE. YOU DON’T WANT PEOPLE TO JUST
MAKE AN ASSUMPTION AND TAKE YOU FOR GRANTED. SO IT WAS GOOD FOR US TO GET OUT
THERE AND TALK TO OUR MEMBERS AND TALK ABOUT WHAT BEING IN THE
UNION MEANS. I THINK THERE’S A LOT OF THINGS
THAT HAPPEN BEHIND THE SCENES THAT PEOPLE DON’T SEE.>>CAN YOU GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE?>>ABSOLUTELY. NOT EVERYBODY GETS LAID OFF, BUT
WHEN A PERSON DOES GET LAID OFF THERE’S A LOT OF WORK THAT GOES
ON BEHIND THE SCENES WHERE WE TRY TO FIND THAT PERSON A
SUITABLE NEW POSITION, IN SOME CASES WE TRY TO WORK OUT DEALS
IF THEY NEED TO JUST GET A LITTLE BIT MORE TIME IN BEFORE
THEY GET TO THE NEXT STEP TOWARDS RETIREMENT. THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS THAT
WE DO LIKE THAT THAT MOST OF OUR MEMBERS DON’T SEE BECAUSE MOST
MEMBERS DON GET LAID OFF. BUT IF THAT EVER HAPPENS TO YOU
AND YOU DON’T HAVE THE UNION THERE TO BACK YOU UP, THESE
PEOPLE DON’T LEAVE WITH AS GOOD A PACKAGE AS THEY COULD OR WE’RE
NOT ABLE TO PLACE THEM IN JOBS. WE DON’T WANT TO BE TAKEN FOR
GRANTED FOR THAT, BECAUSE THAT’S ONE OF THE GREAT BENEFITS OF THE
UNION IS YOU HAVE PEOPLE FIGHTING FOR YOU.>>ONE OF THE THINGS THE S.J.C. SAID IS THAT BY HAVING PEOPLE
WHO ARE NONUNION MEMBERS PAY THESE EITHER FAIR SHARE FEES OR
AGENCY FEES, IS THAT IT WAS FORCING THEM TO PAY FOR
SOMETHING THAT THEY MAY NOT SUPPORT, SAY THE UNION WAS
MAKING DECISIONS OR LOBBYING A CERTAIN WAY ONE WAY OR THE
OTHER. MASSACHUSETTS IS ONE OF 21
STATES THAT ALLOWED THE PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS TO COLLECT THESE
FEES. HOW WERE THE FEES BEING USED BY
U. MASS?>>INDICATION OF
AGENCY FEES, THAT’S JUST FOR THE CONTRACT. OUR BARGAINING TEAM HAS BEEN
MEETING FOR ABOUT A YEAR AND A HALF NOW, TRYING TO SMOOTH OUT
OUR NEW CONTRACT. AND MANAGEMENT DOESN’T WANT TO
GIVE US THE RAISES, THEY WANT TO CAP OUR SICK TIME, THEY WANT TO
DO A LOT THINGS THAT I THINK THESE AGENCY FEE PAYERS, I THINK
THEY AGREE WITH US. THEY WANT RAISES, THEY WANT
VACATION TIME. THEY DON’T WANT THEIR SICK TIME
TO BE CAPPED. SO I DISAGREE THAT THERE ARE
VERY MANY PEOPLE WHO ARE AGAINST THIS. AND THESE AGENCY FEES HELP US
SORT OF PAY FOR OFFICE SUPPORT, COPYING PAPER, TONER, TRAINING
FOR OUR BARGAINING TEAM AND FOR THE OFFICERS ON THE BOARD. I DON’T THINK THERE WAS ANYTHING
WE WERE DOING THAT WAS SO CONTROVERSIAL.>>AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL PEOPLE
WERE SAYING THAT PROGRAMS UNIONS WERE USING THE MONEY TO PAY FOR
MORE LIBERAL CAUSES OR LOBBYING FOR THOSE THINGS. YOU’RE SAYING HERE AT THE LOCAL
LEVEL THOSE FEES WERE BEING USED FOR VERY SPECIFIC THINGS, NOT
NECESSARILY LOBBYING? DO YOU THINK THAT HAPPENS IN
SOME INSTANCES, DO YOU SEE THAT MAYBE FOR TEACHERS AT THE LARGER
LEVEL THAT THOSE FEES MIGHT BE GOING TOWARD SAY LOBBYING FOR A
LARGER CAUSE THE UNION BELIEVES IN?>>RIGHT, IT WOULD THE BE VERY
UNFORTUNATE IF THAT’S HAPPENING BECAUSE THAT’S NOT HOW THIS
MONEY IS MEANT TO BE USED. WE HAVE MEMBERS WHO PAY FULL
DUES AND WE’RE ALLOWED TO USE THAT MONEY FOR THOSE CAUSES, BUT
I DON’T THINK THOSE CAUSES ARE VERY CONTROVERSIAL. I’VE BEEN PAYING TO RAISE THE
MINIMUM WAGE TO $15, TO GET PAID FAMILY LEAVE, BETTER SUPPORT FOR
EDUCATION. AND ESPECIALLY OUT HERE IN
WESTERN MASS WE GET LESS MONEY FOR OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS BECAUSE
OF CHAPTER 70 FUNDING, SO WE’VE BEEN LOBBYING TO TRY TO GET THAT
CORRECTED. I DON’T THINK THESE ARE
CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES. BUT THOSE SPECIFIC ONES COULD
ONLY BE PAID FOR OUT OF MEMBERSHIP DUES, NOT AGENCY
FEES.>>SO PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT THE
SUPREME COURT’S DECISION, AMONG THEM WAS THE DIRECTOR OF THE
KATO CENTER FOR EDUCATION FREEDOM AND SAID THAT THE
DECISION REVERSED, QUOTE, A FUNDAMENTALLY UNJUST REQUIREMENT
THAT FORCED TEACHERS TO PAY FOR THE UNION’S POLITICAL AGENDA,
AND ONE MORE FROM A SENIOR FELLOW AT THE MANHATTAN
INSTITUTE, HE SAID IT WILL RESTORE THOUSANDS OF PUBLIC
EMPLOYEES THE RIGHT TO DECIDE WHICH POLITICAL CAUSES TO
SUPPORT WITH THEIR MONEY. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?>>AGAIN, I DISAGREE, BECAUSE
THE AGENCY FEES NEVER WERE MEANT FOR THAT SORT OF LOBBYING. THE AGENCY FEES ARE ONLY FOR THE
CONTRACT AND THAT’S ALL THAT MY LOCAL AT U.S.A., UNIVERSITY
STAFF ASSOCIATION, AND THE MASSACHUSETTS TEACHERS
ASSOCIATION, THEY KEEP THEIR ACCOUNTING SEPARATE SO THAT
DOESN’T HAPPEN.>>WE’VE HEARD SPEAKER DEL YOA
SAY THAT HE’S GOING TO WORK WITH LEGISLATORS TO COME UP WITH
LEGISLATION TO SOFT EN THAT BLOW. HAVE LEGISLATORS REACHED OUT TO
YOUR UNION YET? I KNOW THEY WERE CONSIDERING
DOING SO TO GET FEEDBACK AND SEE WHAT MIGHT GO INTO LEGISLATION?>>AS FAR AS I KNOW, NO SPECIFIC
LEGISLATORS HAVE REACHED OUT TO US, NO ONE HAS REACHED OUT TO ME
PERSONALLY. BUT WE HAVE A LOT OF GOOD
LEGISLATORS OUT HERE IN WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS. UNFORTUNATELY WE’VE GOT A LOT OF
RETIREMENTS, WE HAD A RECENT DEATH, SO SOME OF OUR STATE
REPRESENTATIVES ARE NOT GOING BACK TO THE LEGISLATURE NEXT
YEAR. SO, STAN ROSENBERG IS NOT GOING
TO BE WITH US ANY LONGER AND THERE’S A RACE THERE. SO WITH THESE CANDIDATES WHO ARE
WORKING ON THEIR CAMPAIGNS RIGHT NOW, I THINK THAT THEY’RE
THINKING OF US. BUT THEY’RE GOING TO BE GOING IN
AS FRESHMEN LEGISLATORS.>>ANYTHING THAT YOU IN
PARTICULAR, ONE THING THAT STANDS OUT FOR YOU KNOWING HOW
THE S.J.C. HAS NOW SAID IT’S
GOING TO, HOW IT RULED RATHER, SO THIS WILL CHANGE LAW HERE IN
MASSACHUSETTS. ANY ONE THING YOU’D LIKE TO SEE
HAPPEN AT THE STATE LEVEL THAT YOU THINK WOULD BE HELPFUL FOR
YOUR CAUSE?>>IF THEY’RE WILLING TO SORT OF
PROVIDE BETTER FUNDING FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND FOR WORKERS
LIKE THE $15 MINIMUM WAGE, THE FAIR SHARE AMENDMENT WHICH WAS
ALSO JUST DEFEATED AT THE STATE LEVEL RECENTLY, THOSE ARE THE
CAUSES WE’VE BEEN WORKING ON. IF THEY’RE WILLING TO TAKE CARE
OF WORK TERSE WAY WE’VE BEEN TRYING TO FIGHT FOR WORKERS,
THAT WOULD BE HELPFUL. I HONESTLY DON’T KNOW WHAT A
LEGISLATIVE SOLUTION WOULD LOOK LIKE. THE DECISION JUST CAME OUT
RECENTLY, M.T.A.’S LEGAL TEAM IS STILL REVIEWING IT TO SEE WHAT
IT MEANS FOR ALL OF US, BUT I KNOW THAT MY JOB IS TAKING CARE
OF MY MEMBERS. AND SO FAR I HAVEN’T HAD ANYBODY
COME UP TO ME WANTING TO LEAVE THE UNION. THE ONLY PEOPLE COMING UP TO ME
HAVE BEEN EXPRESSING THEIR CONDOLENCES BECAUSE THEY
RECOGNIZE HOW STRESSFUL IT IS TO BE AN OFFICER WITH THE LOCAL
DURING THIS TIME.

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