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September 2018

 

Summer of (non)silence
Dante Morelli

 

  Conor Lamb speaking at AFT convention
 
Conor Lamb, who defeated his Republican opponent in a March 2018 special election that garnered national attention, addressed the AFT Convention in Pittsburgh in July. Lamb represents VP Dante Morelli's home district. (photo by Cynthia Eaton)
   

The weather felt unusually hot this summer, stifling and oppressive. If you were like me, you needed to find ways to stay cool and comfortable.

Similar to the weather, we need to react and adjust to political decisions that impact our unions. The Supreme Court’s Janus decision, which we knew would be unfavorable, was an attempt to silence unions. While the decision was an attack on labor rights and organizing, it did not silence labor.

From the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh to the Sheraton ballroom in New York City, our voices were the loudest I have heard.

The voices that were present reflected the AFT Convention’s theme: "We care. We fight. We show up. We vote." In addition to many prominent elected officials and labor leaders addressing the delegation, we voted on a number of resolutions. We were happy that the FA-sponsored resolution to form a task force to have AFT look into adjuncts who pay repetitive dues at multiple institutions was passed unanimously by the AFT delegation. In a turbulent time for AFT and other public sector unions, we learned that through solidarity and collective action, they will not stop us.

At the AFT convention in Pittsburgh, thousands of delegates from the across the country let the nation know we will not sit idly by as courts make decisions to take away the rights of labor and the middle class.

At the New York State AFL-CIO political endorsement conference, we made our voices heard by endorsing pro-union candidates, from both sides of the aisle, at both the state and national levels.

Compared to previous endorsement conferences, there were many close votes, especially the endorsement for the New York District 1 congressional seat. Rep. Lee Zeldin has a dismal 42 percent voting record when it comes to labor and unions. Candidate Perry Gershon received the endorsement in a close vote where he needed a two-thirds vote from the body to receive an endorsement. There were many other congressional and state races that were competitive. Despite some competing voices and different perspectives, the delegates left in solidarity.

Both the AFT convention and the NYS AFL-CIO endorsement conferences were meaningful this summer—moreso than I have seen in previous conventions. This is a result of our post-Janus world. We realize that we need to continue to improve our union and labor activism on many levels, from member engagement to those we elect to office. And these are goals that the FA has set out this year especially as we prepare for contract negotiations.

The enthusiasm for both of these conventions had a level of passion I have not seen in a while. Some say the biggest challenges are the ones that motivate us the most. The Janus decision is one that gives us an opportunity to be a better union, be more engaged with our members and fight the attacks that will continue to come our way.

As New Yorkers, we always find a way to get through unbearable weather and many other challenges that come our way. When it comes to Janus or other attacks on labor, we will not be silenced. We are union proud. We are union strong.