The Path of Most Resistance

The union waits for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide our fate in anti-union Janus v. AFSCME case.

We need not bother. Instead, it’s long past time to hit the road — and take action.

Taking this path of most resistance is already showing a positive impact, both in regards to the big picture of winning hearts and minds of working people in the United States and also in concrete achievements.

The pushback is growing more effective with each day. For example in West Virginia, a state which recently passed a “right-to-work” law, tens of thousands of teachers and school workers went out on strike for nine days.

Not only did the West Virginia teachers win a raise and guarantees on their health insurance, they achieved much more: In a time when unions are under intense attack, the strikers defeated a raft of anti-union bills, including a Wisconsin-style “paycheck protection” bill and a plan to eliminate seniority.

This victory may prove to be a watershed moment for labor, perhaps the beginning of a militant resistance by public workers.

After the Oklahoma Legislature fail short in meeting the demand for a nearly 13 percent pay increase, Oklahoma teachers — following the example of the West Virginia teachers — went on strike April 2.

Oklahoma teachers are the lowest paid in the nation. The average annual income for a high school teacher is $42,460 a year, $13,000 less than teachers in neighboring Texas.

These militant actions sends a strong signal that a resurgent public-worker labor movement shall rise no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court decides.

In Kentucky, thousands of teachers protested in the last month at the state capitol of Frankfort against a recently-passed “pension reform” bill that ended traditional pensions for future teachers, while cutting cost-of-living allowances for retired teachers.

Unlike New York, Kentucky teacher retirees do not receive Social Security; they rely solely on their pensions upon retirement.

The teachers militant resistance had an impact as the GOP-controlled state Senate began to consider dropping the proposal from the legislative session.

As West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky teachers have shown, public-worker unions are moving forward. While the road will be difficult, this is the only path ahead.

This editorial appeared in the April 2018 issue of Public Employee Press, the official publication of District Council 37, AFSCME, which represents 125,000 municipal workers in New York City.

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