CWA News

How Has the Public Sector Changed?

How Has the Public Sector Changed?

CWAers and other public workers in NJ stand up for bargaining rights.
CWAers and other public workers in NJ stand up for bargaining rights.

There has been a fierce attack on public workers in Ohio, New Jersey, New Mexico, Wisconsin and too many other states. And that attack isn't easing, especially with right wing politicians holding the majority in many state legislatures and serving as governors. Public workers are fighting back. In Ohio, CWAers, as part of the broad Stand Up for Ohio coalition, not only mounted a hugely successful referendum to restore public workers' bargaining rights, but our strength seems to have convinced the governor and other state officials not to move forward on right to work (for less) legislation and other anti-worker attacks. In New Jersey, CWA and progressives fought back, but Governor Christie, with support from the democratically-controlled legislature, removed health care from collective bargaining.

In New Mexico, the future of collective bargaining rights for public workers was at stake in the 2012 elections. If we hadn't held and made gains in the legislature, public workers would have lost their bargaining rights, again.

In too many places, public workers are being scapegoated by politicians who promise tax breaks to business and the wealthy while trying to slash jobs and critical service that ordinary people depend on.

How do we stop this? By electing representatives to every level of government who will work with public workers to keep good jobs and quality service, and by building support across our communities for the vital role of public workers and public service.

Public Sector Update

  • With no public hearing or referendum, Michigan has become the 24th Right to Work (for less) state. The legislature passed and Gov. Rick Snyder signed two separate bills that harm bargaining rights for public and private sector workers. A day before the House vote, President Obama was in Michigan and said, "these so-called 'right-to-work' laws, they don't have to do with economics, they have everything to do with politics. What they're really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money." The union movement and progressive allies have made it clear that this isn't over in Michigan.
  • Activists from UPTE-CWA Local 9119, representing members through the University of California system, worked hard to win a "Yes vote" on Proposition 30, a measure that calls for temporary tax increases on those earning more than $250,000 to fund education. Before the election, CWAers across the state battled big corporate dollars to win public support for this initiative and avoid major cuts to education around the state.
  • CWA healthcare workers from New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Iowa and California met for the first annual Healthcare Matters Conference in Vernon Downs, NY. Activists at the three-day event discussed trends in information technology, healthcare reform, safe patient handling and labor law.

'The Future of Our Members Was at Stake'

New Mexico public workers have seen it all. Public workers had collective bargaining rights until 1999, when then-Gov. Gary Johnston allowed that law to expire. In 2003, thanks to the hard work of CWAers who helped elect Gov. Bill Richardson, bargaining rights for public workers were restored. In fact, public workers even had majority signup to choose union representation.

Fast forward to this year, when 6,000 CWA-represented public workers again were in danger of losing their bargaining rights, because controlling the state government are a conservative, rightwing-led Senate, a governor, Susana Martinez, who had already declared war on public workers, and just a one-seat Democratic majority in the House. If Democrats lost the House, public workers would lose their bargaining rights, again.

The governor's two super-PACs dumped a lot of money into negative campaigning, said CWA Representative Robin Gould, but "we knew that the future of our members was at stake."

CWA members targeted critical seats, staffed phone banking, did door knocks and leafleted worksites, then went into overdrive for get-out-the-vote. The results: Elected officials who support public workers and working families have majorities in both the House and Senate.

"Next up is our legislative session, when we will hold our elected officials' feet to the fire, hold our governor accountable and continue to work on issues important to working families," Gould said.