It’s a cliché to say that every challenge is also an opportunity, but there is a core of truth to it.
Your union and your union contracts are facing an existential challenge – and we need to turn this into an opportunity to reexamine the ways that our contracts and the work that we have done together are continuing to improve our lives and the lives of the communities we serve.
Next month, the Supreme Court will be hearing a court case known as Janus vs AFSCME. AFSCME is a fellow union that primarily represents public employees.
SEIU Local 500 and other unions also represent public employees, which includes K-12 employees, faculty at public universities, firefighters, police officers, county employees and more.
If the Supreme Court rules against the union, it would bar the union from requiring that all employees represented by the union contribute their fair share towards the cost of their union representation, shifting the entire burden onto those who elect to be union members.
Montgomery County Public Schools and the Montgomery County government have both expressed their opposition to such an outcome and have said that the current rules for public sector unions benefit both workers and the students and communities they serve.
This is the challenge we face. It is a blatant attempt to divide workers and weaken unions. We cannot ignore the threat this poses to future contracts – nor the fact that it is just one step in an ongoing effort to strip unions of the ability to negotiate for meaningful improvements to wages and benefits.
But all of us have faced challenges.
Some of you can still remember when SEIU Local 500 first came into being. We faced great challenges then, too.
We faced challenges when we organized the first adjunct faculty union in the region and then the first graduate student worker union. We faced challenges when we fought in Annapolis to pass legislation allowing for Maryland family childcare providers to form a union.
We have faced many challenges in the past. We have faced setbacks, often because anti-worker politicians from both major parties stood against us.
But we have always come out stronger, because of the choices we made. We chose to unite, fight and win.
What choice will you make?
As individual union members, we must spend some time thinking about how much stronger we are when we stand united. We must remind ourselves of what we stand to lose if we do not seize this opportunity.
Like it or not, the cards are already all on the table – we need to be all in.
Thank you for everything that you do.
President, SEIU Local 500