Solidarity remained strong throughout the “Not On Our Watch!” Union Leader Summit on Saturday as SEIU 721 members from across Southern California gathered at the Our Lady of the Angeles Cathedral in Downtown LA to arm themselves with the organizing skills needed to win in the new Right-to-Work era.
“Unions have been winning and they’ve been winning in Right-to-Work states,” said Bob Schoonover, President of SEIU 721, the largest public sector union in California, with more than 96,000 members. “Teachers and public employees in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky have been fighting back against hostile legislatures and winning. If they can win, we can win. Today, we’ll learn how to inoculate our worksites, how to anticipate and counter anti-worker attacks – because they’re coming. Most importantly, we’ll learn how to organize ourselves. That’s really the key. Each and every one of us must take responsibility for our own worksites.”
At the summit, SEIU 721 leaders gave attendees a crash course on everything they stand to lose if Right-to-Work succeeds in fooling the rank and file into giving up their membership after the U.S. Supreme Court delivers what is expected to be an anti-worker ruling soon in the Janus v. AFSCME case.
“Let me tell you all why I personally want all of us to stand up and defend our turf,” said Linda Dent, Vice President of SEIU 721. “I am very worried about my grandchildren’s future. Young people today have no good jobs to look forward to. Even if they do everything right, and go to school, they graduate with loans but no jobs – or jobs that pay little money. Most jobs don’t have paid health insurance or retirement. Nothing, unless you work union! If Right-to-Work comes and destroys our unions, it is only going to get worse for the next generation. So today we are here to arm ourselves with the tools we are going to need to fight back and protect not just our union but the future of our younger people.”
Attendees were provided with samples of shameless Right-to-Work propaganda designed to trick hard-working members into giving up the power of their union – which would leave them totally vulnerable when their contract expires and they start from nothing. This is exactly what happened in Wisconsin and Washington State when Right-to-Work arrived at their doorstep.
To keep union strong and properly defend their worksites, member leaders were armed with access to the Rise and Resist Committee Toolkit – an online, one-stop shop containing everything an SEIU 721 leader needs to keep Right-to-Work goons gone for good.
Decision Day Downloads include sample action plans and social media posts, plus SEIU 721 branded “Union Strong” placards and stickers.
The Committee Organizing Guide instructs member leaders on how to build their worksite team so they can be prepared when Right-to-Work goons arrive.
Union Board in a Box includes all materials member leaders need to keep their worksite bulletin boards up-to-date.
Rapid Response Tools offer member leaders simple, step-by-step instructions on how to hold the line, whether Right-to-Work goons show up in-person or in any other medium.
The New Employee Orientation section guides member leaders on how to best welcome new workers into the union and keep them in our union family.
The Digital Organizing Guide offers members leaders guidance on how to create a text tree, make a worksite Facebook group, access the union’s latest materials or make request for ASAP delivery of union materials.
Towards the end of the summit, 76 member leaders who participated in Representational Excellence workshops took part in a special graduation ceremony.
“Nothing is more valuable than our time,” said President Schoonover. “We have a group of member leaders who have given up their weekends for months and months to learn the specifics on how to protect their workplaces and how to help their union brothers and sisters when they need support.”
At the conclusion of the event, member leaders took the Rise & Resist Oath, where they pledged to defend the union and take whatever measures necessary to keep the union strong. Attendees also pinned special “721 Leader” pins on one another.
“Now more than ever, we have to stick together,” said Lillian Cabral, Secretary of SEIU 721. “I know it isn’t always easy. But we are leaders. And leaders set the example, so if we’re going to hold the line, we have to look first at ourselves. We have to look in the mirror and say, “Right-to-Work? Not on our watch. I am the union!”