An open letter to gov from a union worker

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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.

On Monday, 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 sup‐ port the union financially, but the union will be required to provide representation to all employ‐ ees 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 know we 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 opportu‐ nity 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 disrupt my peace.

 

Chicago Sun‑Times ·  26 Feb 2018 ·  BY KIM AKINS

Kim Akins is a special education classroom assistant with the Chicago Public Schools and amember of SEIU Local 73.