The following statement and petition were approved by GEO’s Stewards Council at a meeting on the evening of December 2nd, 2020.
Sign the petition at bit.ly/NoAFTRaid!
We are members of the American Federation of Teachers. We are disappointed and alarmed to learn that our parent union is attempting to raid the Michigan Nurses Association by urging the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council at Michigan Medicine (UMPNC) to decertify. Instead of putting more resources into organizing the thousands of unorganized workers at the University of Michigan or increasing support for AFT locals on campus, AFT is attempting to steal another union’s members, breaking the bonds of labor solidarity. By encouraging UMPNC members to decertify from Michigan Nurses Association in order to join American Federation of Teachers, AFT is damaging on-campus labor relations, demoralizing Michigan Medicine nurses, and empowering the employer in the midst of a pandemic that has already taken so much from medical workers. It is unconscionable.
Nurses and their unions have borne the brunt of the pandemic. They have faced immense personal risk from the disease, with countless falling ill and far too many perishing alongside the patients they heroically care for. In addition, they have faced attacks from their employer who has used this pandemic to cut labor costs and weaken hard won protections achieved through collective action. UMPNC’s focus should be fighting for safe working conditions and a fair contract for members- not responding to AFT’s raid attempt.
Fundamentally, as members of the labor movement, we believe our foundational mission is to organize the unorganized. That is what Graduate Employees Organization AFT Local 3550 tried to do during our campaign to organize Graduate Student Research Assistants in 2011, and what AFT-Michigan successfully did recently by organizing physician assistants at U-M.. The Michigan Nurses Association has done this all across the state, including winning a landmark first contract last year at Munson Medical Center. Expending time, energy and money fighting amongst ourselves over already organized workers only serves to sap our strength, damage our solidarity, and open up divisions that bosses and employers can exploit.
AFT’s move to break UMPNC away from MNA has polarized local labor coalitions and threatens to undermine years of work invested in building cross-campus labor solidarity. This serves to strengthen the hand of our common employer, already operating in shock-doctrine fashion through the pandemic and ensuing financial disruptions. On a statewide level, this raid divides nurses against each other and weakens nurses’ collective power.
Workplace struggles, strikes, and the results of the recent election give the labor movement new opportunities to use our power to meaningfully improve the lives of millions of workers to expand and strengthen worker power across the country. We should not squander this moment by wasting precious resources fighting a self-defeating battle amongst ourselves.
As AFT members, we oppose the use of our union dues and resources to raid another union. We call on leadership in the American Federation of Teachers, including National AFT President Randi Weingarten and Michigan AFT President David Hecker to cease this raid and recommit AFT to principles of labor solidarity.