Fellow AFT Members,
Following five weeks of brutal attacks on education from the Utah Legislature, we are in the final two weeks of the session. They're not finished. We will see more proposed legislation before the end that is geared towards the deprofessionalization of public and higher education employees. Most insideous of the proposed bills are HB 197, SB 235, and SB 260 along with a score of others that are intended to extinguish our collective voice. What's the motivation behind such bad legislation? What it's always been from those who demand and pursue austerity, polarization, privatization and deprofessionalization.... profiting on the backs of our kids!
When proposed legislation is debated in committees and on the House and Senate floor it's marketed as increasing student achievment and parental choice. However when you strip away the surface layers of the bill language, research the sponsors, and dig into things, you discover the truth. Public Education is a multi-billion dollar industry and several Utah Legislators are profiting from the legislation that they sponsor and pass. This is not unique to Utah. It's taking place across the United States. The promise of America isn’t disappearing by accident. We are being ripped off. Our students are suffering. Our families are being squeezed. Our communities are being starved.
Our opponents are organized and motivated. They blame teachers for struggling schools. They blame public employees for budget deficits. They blame workers for the broken economy. They sell austerity as the solution, while they buy elections, push radical legislation and fund court cases to strip working people of their rights and destroy unions—all so they can further enrich themselves and implement their agenda unopposed.
Our fight back must start at the local level—where we feel the impact of the attacks. Because these attacks are also national, we must connect our local work to a national effort to expose the motivations of the opposition and to change the conversation about the future of America.
I used to believe that it was impossible for me to have a voice and make a difference. That's simply not true. I decided to get involved. That decision has been difficult, but I'm glad I did. I decided to serve in my union. First thing I did was share my story of why I joined AFT. I didn't "sell" the union, I just shared with my co-workers and friends that I wanted to take a stand. That I was sick and tired of the poor treatment and wasn't going to stand by and let it happen. I simply asked them to stand with me so I didn't have to do it alone. Many of them did, and joined AFT. Several of them are currently serving as local and state leaders. I fully understand that not everyone can serve as union leaders, but everyone of us can attend a local union meeting for one hour. We can bring a dozen cookies, some chips, and our good ideas to build our locals. We can surely tell a co-worker why we belong to our union and invite them to become a union member. That's all it takes, small efforts turn into colossal change. We outnumber our opponents. Are we going to let a handful of Legislators define who we are and what we do as professionals? Why would we?
The time for belonging to AFT in order to receive services is over. We no longer have that luxury. Each of us have to engage in the work. This year's legislative session is changing the dynamics of public education in Utah and all of us are in danger of losing our jobs. The anti-labor and public education movements across the nation are intensifying and we must stand together to stop them. So please take the steps to strengthen our union!
Step 1) Decide now to participate in your local union. Contact your local leaders and ask what you can do to help. It doesn't need to be a huge committment. Remember, it may be as simple as attending the next local meeting. If you don't have a local, call me and we will help you start one in your area.
Step 2) Please speak to your co-workers and encourage them to stand with us! Share with them your AFT story and why you belong to AFT. If you need materials to share with them check with your local leaders or call our office at 801-566-3153.
Step 3) Be courageous. Union work is not for the faint-of-heart. It takes committment and getting out of your comfort zone. Please ask for help and we will be right there to support you.
Step 4) Be smart. Don't become a target. Remember to act professionally. We win when we're organized and stand together, not when we stand alone.
It's time for AFT to come to the forefront in Utah. We've been in the shadows far too long. It's time to organize and become the largest labor union in Utah. It's time to crush the opposition. It's time to take back our profession. It's time for us to FIGHT BACK, AND FIGHT FORWARD.