An Update From Region President Colleen Wheaton


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A Message from Region President Colleen Wheaton: Spring 2016



Supporting each other to build our power and keep our Union Strong

As you may have heard, our Region just completed our first membership “blitz” throughout Onondaga County. For one week, teams of union staff and activists went door-to-door dropping literature, and made visits to worksites and members’ homes, with the goal of having direct conversations with our members about the attacks on unions, and what it means to us and our families, and listening to what our members had to tell us.

I’m grateful that our efforts met with overwhelming success. At most worksites, our members welcomed the opportunity to meet with us and hear our important message. At most of our members’ homes, we were warmly welcomed, and our members appreciated that we took the time to hear their concerns and share our own.

Of course, we faced some union members who were not happy with our union, and made their feelings known, but we were still able to have meaningful conversations with most of them. What we asked them – and everyone else we met with –was to momentarily put aside any local concerns or issues and take a step back to look at the bigger picture.

We know our union is not perfect. As a member-run union, we are at our strongest when our members take the time to get involved. It is our greatest strength. It can also be our greatest weakness. When our members don’t get involved, we cannot function as effectively. Even so, what we tried to tell all our members is that even an imperfect union is better than no union at all.

Because that’s what’s really at stake. The corporations, CEOs and billionaires who are behind these attacks on unions and workers are not going to stop until they’ve done everything they can to get rid of unions all together. They’ve rigged the system and they are trying to get rid of one of the last things that stands in their way of getting everything they want; the Labor Movement.

What we told our members was that we cannot afford to let them win. We will never have the billions of dollars that they have to fight against us. What we DO have is people power – lots of it if we can tap into our members and build our power.

For sure, we dodged a bullet with the Supreme Court case after Justice Scalia passed away and the Friedrichs case was decided as a tie, but this was by no means a victory. The petitioners have already requested to have the case re-heard in the future, and even if that doesn’t happen, there are dozens of cases lined up that continue to chip away at the foundations of our union’s existence.

At this point, we cannot take anything for granted, and we must prepare for losing these court battles. We must work and work hard to shore up the support of our members and make sure they know what’s at stake. One of the biggest problems we face is that many of our younger members aren’t aware that what they get in wages and benefits were hard-fought by unions to achieve. They take for it all for granted. Our more experienced members know different, and I hope they will share that information with their co-workers so that more of our members understand what our union has done for them and their families.

One challenge we face in spreading our message in this Region is our large geography. With twenty counties, we are so spread out that we couldn’t possibly do blitzes in every County at this sustained level. The challenge we have before us is to take the enthusiasm, effort and momentum from what we just did, and channel it into more member outreach throughout our Region that spreads the same message and keeps building our strength and our connections with our members, one by one.

We must continue to impress upon every member that we can survive these attacks, just like we’ve survived others before – by sticking together, by committing to support each other – to have each others’ backs – and to never quit on each other, or on our union.

There will always be those who want to take away what we have. When they come to our doors, we must stand up to them, each of us on our own, but also collectively, and push back. Together we are stronger. Together we will stay strong. Together, we must never quit.

In Solidarity,

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