Action Center

What the ATU is doing prepare for Janus

The Janus Decision (expected any moment at this writing) is a huge threat to public employee unions in the USA.  Basically, it will reverse a 1977 decision of the Supreme Court and make union membership voluntary even in states where so called “Right to Work” laws do not exist. The goal of the corporate interest behind the case is to weaken unions, diminish workers’ rights, privatize public services, slash public pensions, and more.

JANUS cartoon

Rediscovering ATU’s roots

Fortunately, the ATU is using this moment to rediscover its roots and strengthen its locals. Thousands of leaders have been through training sponsored by the International.  Leaders are learning how locals in places like Michigan, Georgia, Texas, Florida and Arizona have maintained strong memberships and good contracts despite so-called “Right to Work” laws.  They are learning the habits of leaders in those locals.  Many ATU leaders are learning they are doing many of the actions and activities that promote a strong membership already.

What Are Leaders Learning?

There is no substitute for face to face communications inside local unions.  Social media is great, but it does not substitute for union members sitting down with each other and learning about each other’s interests. 

Some of the meetings are one-to-one, but many are small group meetings conducted informally in the break rooms on the property.  Not everyone can make monthly union meetings.  Strong locals don’t depend entirely on those monthly meetings to discuss important issues.

Action is Oxygen to Locals

ATU members are learning that action is like oxygen to a local union.  When the union is active and when it is working on issues both inside and outside the workplace that address key concerns of the members the union is stronger.  Perhaps it is a campaign to increase funding for transit, like local 689 in the Washington, DC took part in and won -- or it is expanding service, where local 732 in Atlanta along with coalition partners won a couple of years ago. These kinds of actions make for a more powerful union--a union where transit workers are proud to belong.

Leadership training is an important part of keeping the union strong. 

The ATU is taking the lead on training, especially with the creation of the Tommy Douglas Conference Center.  Much of the training provided by the International in the last year has also taken place regionally and locally all over the USA.  While many members may have come to recent trainings fearful of the changes the court decision represents, most ATU members left recent trainings feeling optimistic about the future of their local in this new environment.

The importance of a strong union

Years ago, members of the ATU wore a different colored pin on their lapel each month to show they were members in good standing in the union.  In those days dues were collected by hand and not through payroll deduction. Keeping up with everyone must have been difficult, but starting 125 years ago, transit workers understood the importance of a strong union and did what they had to do to organize and preserve one.  Those workers faced stiff opposition. 

Today, in a different time, workers face stiff opposition.  Even though it involves a lot of work and relearning old lessons, what the Janus prep campaign is teaching is that just like our union ancestors, people want a strong union and are willing to do what it takes to have one. 

Years from now it would not be surprising to think the Janus decision ultimately helped make the ATU even stronger than before.