Taking a stand for the workers who keep their cities running, more than 40 mayors coast-to-coast have signed a pledge affirming their commitment to public employees’ rights and the unions that fight for them.
Portland, Ore., Local 125 Business Manager Travis Eri, right, is pictured with Seattle Local 77 Business Manager Lou Walter against one of the signs symbolizing the strength of IBEW members in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Janus decision. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is one of more than 40 mayors nationwide who have signed a pledge supporting public workers and their unions.
“Effective unions are not only vital to the quality of life of municipal employees, they are the backbone of the middle class and essential voices for fairness in our cities,” the pledge states.
“We believe that a strong labor movement is necessary for the future of our cities and our country,” its preamble continues. “By ensuring high-quality jobs for working families in our cities, unions help improve the standard of living in our communities and reduce demand for public benefits.”
The pledge and its first 22 signatures were unveiled in late June when the Supreme Court ruled against public workers and their unions in Janus v. AFSCME, a case backed by billionaires bent on destroying labor.
The 5-4 decision allows non-members to withhold the fees that cover their share of bargaining, grievances and other direct representation. Those fees are entirely separate from union budgets for political action, contrary to opponents’ talking points.
Pushing back against Janus, the mayors promise to publicly affirm the role of unions and their contributions to civic life and quality, family-wage jobs; to ensure unions have information about and access to new hires; to work with unions on professional development and training opportunities; to set neutrality policies for the workplace that prohibit managers and supervisors from discouraging union membership; and to take other action defending workers’ rights.
The mayors’ pledge, along with action taken by worker-friendly governors and legislatures in at least eight states, is helping limit Janus’s fallout. The circle of allies keeps growing as unions continue to press for more legal and political remedies.
Meanwhile, the IBEW and other unions representing public workers are making great strides with member education and internal organizing campaigns. IBEW locals in California and New Jersey are among unions reporting more membership gains than losses in the ruling’s wake.
IBEW’s diverse public-sector members include utility and transit workers, police officers, prosecutors and a wide array of other city, county and state agency employees.
The pledge originated with the American Federation of Teachers, which created an Action Network page set up for people to email their mayors and urge them to sign. As of this week, 41 mayors were listed, from Honolulu to Portland, Maine; Austin, Texas; Pittsburgh; Dayton, Ohio; St. Petersburg, Fla., New York City; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Boise, Idaho and 30 more cities in a dozen more states.
Announcing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s early support for the pledge, a New York City news release included personal statements from 17 other mayors.
“By siding with a well-funded, corporate-backed attack on unions, the Supreme Court has dealt a blow to countless workers and their families who are struggling to remain in America’s middle class,” said Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James. “We must continue to move forward from this troubling setback, and work to support candidates and organizations who will fight for workers’ rights and economic dignity.”
The mayors also used the opportunity to publicly praise their employees. Tacoma, Wash., Mayor Victoria Woodards said:
“Our frontline workers deliver the core services that community members value most, and it is important that they know how deeply we appreciate their daily contributions which go a long way toward shaping quality of life in Tacoma.”
Click here to urge your city’s mayor to sign the pledge.