What it Means to Be Strong

A Labor Day Message from President Shelton

There's no way to sugarcoat it. It has been a tough year for working people in our country.

Exhibit A is the Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME. The decision to prevent public sector unions from collecting fair share fees is part of a long campaign by corporate executives and right-wing groups to restrict our ability to join together in strong unions to speak up for ourselves, our families and our communities.

Janus is the last name of the man who the National Right to Work Foundation recruited to be the face of their campaign to destroy public sector unions. But in Roman mythology, Janus was the god of transitions. He is depicted as having two faces, one looking to the past and one looking to the future.

CWA has a proud history. We draw strength from our past, and from those who sacrificed to build our union. We commemorate that history every Thursday, wearing red in honor of Gerry Horgan, who gave his life on the picket line while on strike against NYNEX.

While we honor our past, we are not bound by it. CWA members have always looked toward the future and have made sure that our union is strong enough to withstand the tough times.

The Janus decision and the aggressive campaign the one percent is waging to encourage members to drop out of the union is a test of that strength.

A decade ago, CWA convention delegates looked toward the future and created our Strategic Industry Fund, and then our Growth Fund, to support long-term campaigns to build our members' power. Those funds support our CWA STRONG program, which we launched two years ago in anticipation of the Janus case.

With that support and with the commitment of leaders and members throughout our union, we have organized and mobilized in places where we have formal collective bargaining rights and places where we don't. We have organized and mobilized in places where we can collect fair share fees and places where we can't. We have shown that we can overcome any challenge to grow our union.

Following our Presidents' Meeting this summer, Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens made a presentation on our union's finances and how we are adapting to the loss of fair share fees. After the presentation a brother from District 3 was moved to respond. He said that we must look to the future. To make sure that we are strong, we should learn from our past, and update the way we allocate our Strategic Industry and Growth Funds so that we can increase our ability to organize and mobilize in light of the new challenges we face.

I'm ready to bring big, bold proposals like this forward when we meet next summer for our 77th Convention, and I know many of you are too.

These times are calling on each of us to be the fearless labor movement heroes that we read about in history books. Those who came before us would expect us to fight like hell against this barrage of assaults on decent jobs and workers' rights, and those who come after us will be grateful that we did.

But this hard work is not just a long-term investment. Each day we are making a real difference for working families by negotiating contracts that save jobs, fighting harassment in the workplace, helping workers join our union, pushing for legislation that limits the power of Wall Street and the big banks to control our economy, electing representatives who are committed to preserving programs retirees depend on like Social Security and Medicare, and so much more.

On this Labor Day, I know that the one percent and corporate America will continue to test our strength. They will do whatever it takes to increase their profits to even more obscene levels including destroying good jobs and the communities that depend on them, putting our safety and health at risk and preventing us from having a voice on the job and in our democracy.

But we are not facing these challenges alone. Each of you has made a commitment to join together, in our union, to fight for respect on the job and for a better tomorrow. And that's what makes us strong.