Council 4 Delegates Convention Affirms Fight for Our Freedom

Against a backdrop of legislative and judicial attacks aimed at destroying the rights and freedoms of unionized workers – including the forthcoming Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 – more than 200 members of affiliated local unions and chapters helped chart a path forward during Council 4’s biennial business convention on April 14 in Farmington, CT.

Convention highlights included keynote remarks by Danny Homan, President of AFSCME Council 61, which represents public sector workers in Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.

Homan urged Council 4 delegates to do their part to prevent Connecticut from becoming like Iowa, which he likened to “Wisconsin on steroids.”

Noting that Iowa has been a “Right to Work for Less” state since the 1940s, Homan explained how anti-union Republicans took over the legislature and the governor’s office in the last election cycle, and gutted collective bargaining laws and protections for Iowa public service workers.

Workers lost the right to bargain a host of economic and working conditions, and were also compelled to hold annual union recertification elections requiring a 50% plus 1 majority of the entire bargaining unit (not those who vote) to retain representational status.

“This is all coming your way,” Homan warned delegates, pointing to the difference between two master collective bargaining agreements for state employees – the first, which expired in 2017, was more than 200 pages, while the newest agreement was 26 pages.

The good news, Homan pointed out, is that Council 61 has maintained near 100% membership in most of its state and municipal locals, thanks to implementation of the AFSCME Strong member mobilization program that Council 4 is currently employing throughout Connecticut.

Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan

“We have to talk to our members. We talk to them every day,” Homan said. “Do the [AFSCME Strong] program. Do it religiously.”

Council 4 Director of Operations Patrick Sampson provided an update of the AFSCME Strong initiative in Connecticut. Several affiliated locals received special recognition for meeting the standards of AFSCME Strong, which include direct engagement with 80% of the local union membership, having at least 90% of the membership signed up as full dues paying AFSCME members, and a minimum of 10% of members participating in AFSCME’s PEOPLE political action program.

To that end, the following local unions were recognized with special achievement awards: AFSCME Local 287 (New Haven Custodians), AFSCME Local 393 (West Haven Library), AFSCME Local 610 (NP-3 State Clerical in northeast and southeast Connecticut), AFSCME Local 1278 (Berlin Board of Education Secretaries), AFSCME Local 1588 (State Office of Higher Education), AFSCME Local 1933 (East Hartford Board of Education Custodians) and AFSCME Local 2930 (Newington Town and Board of Education).

“Our goal is clear,” said Council 4 Executive Director Sal Luciano. “We are trying to create an even stronger Council 4, more capable of fighting back against right-wing, corporate-backed forces that want to take away our collective bargaining rights, undermine pensions, make it harder to join a union and silence our voice on the job.”

The latest attack on worker rights and freedoms is the Janus v. AFSCME case before the Supreme Court. A decsion is due by mid-June, adding to the urgency of applying the AFSCME Strong approach to engaging and mobilizing members.

AFSCME Local 478 President Cassandra Lang

AFSCME Local 478 President Cassandra Lang, whose local represents NP-3 State Clerical Employees in greater New Haven, stressed the value of AFSCME Strong.

“Union membership cards are a physical sign of solidarity and commitment,” Lang said. She urged delegates to form Membership Action Teams at worksites to facilitate engagement and action.

Convention delegates also attended to other union business, including the election of the 2018-20 Executive Board. Click here for a list of the newly Council 4 Vice Presidents. Council 4 Delegates will reconvene on April 20 to submit nominations for the position of Executive Director, with the election set for May 11. Stacey Harris-Byrdsong of Local 1303-132 (CREC paraprofessionals) was seated as Council 4 Secretary.

The new Council 4 Executive Board will meet in June to fill current vacancies, including the position of President and two Vice President spots (State Higher Education and State Judicial).

Delegates emerged from the Council 4 convention aware of the challenges ahead. “The employer can’t take your union away from you,” Homan implored them to remember. “Only you can take your union away from you.”