An open let­ter to gov from a union worker

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION - BYKIM AKINS KimAkins is a spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion class­room as­sis­tant with the Chicago Pub­lic Schools and amem­ber of SEIU Lo­cal 73.

My name is Kim Akins, and I am a spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion class­room as­sis­tant with Chicago Pub­lic Schools. When I was a lit­tle girl, my fa­ther would take me to his union meet­ings, and it was there that I was first ed­u­cated on the value of a union.

I am a ste­ward at my work­place be­cause I feel that be­com­ing a leader in my union is vi­tal to my liveli­hood.

OnMon­day, the U. S. Supreme Court will hear oral ar­gu­ments in the case of Janus v. AFSCME, a law­suit ini­ti­ated by you, Gov. Rauner, and your friends. The case seeks to de­stroy our abil­ity to come to­gether ef­fec­tively to ad­vo­cate for the spe­cial needs chil­dren we serve. By weak­en­ing our col­lec­tive voice, it will re­sult in more short staffing and higher turnover.

When the Supreme Court rules on the Janus case next spring, it is ex­pected that they will say that pub­lic em­ploy­ees may no longer bar­gain for con­tracts that re­quire all work­ers to pay their fair share of rep­re­sen­ta­tion costs. Once the court has ruled, only union mem­ber­swill have to sup­port the union fi­nan­cially, but the union will be re­quired to pro­vide rep­re­sen­ta­tion to all em­ploy­ees whether they be­long to the union or not.

Make no mis­take, the ed­u­ca­tion of our most vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren will suf­fer. Amer­ica needs unions be­cause union jobs are good jobs that build thriv­ing com­mu­ni­ties. When work­ing peo­ple, like me and my co- work­ers, stick to­gether in our union, we gain the power in num­bers to raise wages, safe­guard ba­sic needs like health care cov­er­age, and make life bet­ter for our­selves and our fam­i­lies.

We knowwe have each oth­ers’ backs. We aren’t alone.

Gov. Rauner, I won’t let you or your friends take away my pen­sion, health in­sur­ance and job se­cu­rity. As a mem­ber of SEIU Lo­cal 73, I have signed up all of my co­work­ers as full union mem­bers and have gone be­yond my work­site to Chicago Park Dis­trict em­ploy­ees to sign them up as well. I am em­pow­ered by our unity be­cause we are stand­ing to­gether.

Many work­ers who don’t have a union yet are fight­ing hard to join to­gether. Fast food work­ers, air­port at­ten­dants, home care work­ers and other hard- work­ing women and men have united to de­mand $ 15 an hour and a union to fight back against un­just and un­safe man­age­ment prac­tices. It’s a move­ment that isn’t about one work­place, or one job, it’s about cre­at­ing good jobs that lift up en­tire com­mu­ni­ties.

Now isn’t the time to make it harder to join to­gether for power in num­bers through a union.

Ac­cord­ing to a study by the Eco­nomic Pol­icy In­sti­tute, union mem­bers earn 10 to 20 per­cent higher wages than those who work sim­i­lar, but nonunion, jobs. The im­pact is even greater for women, Lati­nos and AfricanAmer­i­can men. The higher wage stan­dard also boosts an­nual pay for all work­ers by about $ 1,558 in states that have a larger pro­por­tion of union mem­bers.

Gains like these make rich and pow­er­ful ex­trem­ists ner­vous. Peo­ple like you, Gov. Rauner. It’s why you’re con­coct­ing a well- funded cam­paign to di­vide us as work­ers and limit the power in num­bers we have to­gether in our union.

On Feb. 26, we will con­tinue the proud his­tory of the work­ing women and men be­fore us who paved the way for work­ers to have power in num­bers in our union. In com­mu­ni­ties big and small, from coast to coast, work­ers like me will be ris­ing up at ac­tions and protests.

I’ll be join­ing my co- work­ers, our al­lies and Fight for 15 ac­tivists at Da­ley Plaza. To­gether, we’re call­ing on our elected lead­ers to take ac­tion to help all work­ing peo­ple have the op­por­tu­nity to join to­gether in unions and have the strength to im­prove our jobs, our fam­i­lies’ lives and our com­mu­ni­ties.

His­tory shows that we are stronger to­gether. While big cor­po­ra­tions and bil­lion­aires rig the rules to make it dif­fi­cult for work­ers to use our power in num­bers, we pledge to stick to­gether. No court case, no leg­is­la­tion, no pro­pa­ganda cam­paign can stop us.

Gov. Rauner, I won’t let you and peo­ple like you dis­ruptmy peace.

Gov. Rauner

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