COLLECTIVE, from the Latin meaning “coming together.”
“It’s the individual effort of everybody working together towards a collective goal that causes real, effective change in America and in the world.”
~ David Hogg (Parkland shooting survivor and student activist)
“Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!”
~ Frederick Douglass’s advice to the young
A friend of mine is fond of saying that a union is both a town hall and an army. Of course, a town hall makes a poor army and vice versa, but that’s the very tension we experience as a union – our desire to deliberate democratically (and, man, do we like to deliberate!) and also to take action and get things done!
The past year has been an extraordinary object lesson in getting things done and working collectively. From Cahokia to Chicago, Gurnee to Quincy, Champaign, Schaumburg, charter schools and universities, our members have collected themselves together in actions to protect their institutions, gain better contracts, fight for immigrant families, win more funding for universities, and earn the right to be recognized as a union. There’s so much more, but I hope you will take time to think about the main underlying condition that made all this possible – our ability and willingness to work in concert with each other to take actions (private and public) that show our power and determination. When we do that, we win. Yes, we win when we act together.
This is why collective bargaining is so essential for us, and why it’s under attack. Forces in this country want to hamper our ability to bargain and act collectively precisely because they know that’s how we exercise power and win. Whether it’s Bruce Rauner and the Supreme Court’s tortured Janus decision, or those who seek to undo exclusive representation and collective bargaining, we must rise up to defend ourselves and our movement.
Take a couple recent examples. First, we saw IFT members in Chicago wage the first EVER charter school strike in US history! Our Chicago Teachers Union (Local 1) charter members’ solidarity and historic collective action inspires us all to know that we can achieve great things if we work together, commit to one another and have a vision for how our action can lead to improvements in our lives and work. I’ll never forget their rally where I met Hannah Weinstein, a strike captain and leader. Not only had she never been on strike before—she’s a first-year teacher! That’s solidarity.
And I think about our members in Peoria, where as part of their contract campaign, they were able to turn out 500 members to a school board meeting. Guess how long after that it took to get a strong new contract?
I could list a lot more (and you’ll see a few featured in this newsletter) – two GEO strikes, a big higher education rally in Springfield, our members turning out to campaign for and elect candidates who share our values…
But in the end, the lesson is all the same. We win when we act collectively, and we are doing that more than at any time in our recent history. We are writing an exciting new chapter in labor history. Let’s keep it up!