By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director
The good news is in: 71 percent of Americans support labor unions. This is an all-time high and so encouraging as America celebrates our federal Labor Day holiday.
I’ve had some interesting labor experiences this past week while visiting my sister Jane in Minneapolis. Wednesday, we went by Starbucks and saw that it was closed due to striking workers. We cheered them on and went across to Caribou coffee for our drinks. Then a mailer showed up at Jane’s house addressed to her son, who is a Minnesota school teacher. It read “Stop Funding Racism with Your Union Dues.”
Hmmm, I thought, this is curious. Union dues to fund racism? Sounds fishy to me.
The flyer featured a photo of young African American woman holding teaching materials and said, “Your union really negotiated a contract that undermines the Civil Rights Act.”
I started to dig deeper and learned that the union has negotiated terms that guarantee a diverse work in Minnesota. That is what this group is calling “racism” – racism against white folks apparently. The mailer’s return address was from the “Freedom Foundation,Cincinnati OH”. At the bottom it says “CancelUnionDues.com”.
Yup, you guessed it – it’s a full-on attack on teachers’ unions, which I learned from reading an interview this week with AFT president Randi Weingarten. As part of an on ongoing attack on teachers by the right, this flyer was directed at the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers.
As for the Freedom Foundation mailer, the Maryland State Education Association has this to say about them: The Freedom Foundation [is funded by] conservative donors, including the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, that supports conservative and libertarian organizations.
“When educators are aware of who’s funding [these anti-union campaigns], and what their agendas are, then the charade of these emails falls away pretty quickly,” said Adam Mendelson, a spokesperson for the Maryland State Education Association.
For a shot in the arm about labor rising, I recommend both President Weingarten’s Labor Day blog post along with AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler’s remarks to the Federation of International Football Associations titled Don’t Leave Workers Behind. Young people are excited about organizing unions – they get it – and we must be there to support them.