AFT-W Letter 11.03.14

The following is a letter from AFT-Wisconsin President Kim Kohlhaas sent to WSP President Jeff Myers:

Dear AFT-Wisconsin local presidents,

Like many of you, I’ll be working hard today and tomorrow to get out the vote on Tuesday.  And like all of you, I’ll be watching the election returns tomorrow night with a mixture of anxiety, excitement, and anticipation. First off, I’d like to ask all of you to forward today’s AFT-Wisconsin Solidarity Center blast, as well as the Solidarity Center blast that will go out on Wednesday morning, to your union membership. We’ve found that when local presidents forward our blast emails, they get read by members at a much higher rate than when they come straight from the Solidarity Center, so your help in getting our message to every member is greatly appreciated. But I’m not writing about Election Day today—I’m writing about what will happen on Wednesday, November 5.

Tomorrow’s election is about as close as they come, and while we’re all hoping—and working hard—for a Mary Burke victory, we have to be prepared for either outcome. And no matter who wins tomorrow’s election, our fundamental work as local union members and leaders is not going to change. We will still organize in our worksites and in our communities in order to build workplace power and to strengthen education and public services in Wisconsin. That will be the case under either a Governor Burke or a Governor Walker. We will still be living under the same legal restrictions that we are now, which will almost certainly remain unchanged for the foreseeable future.

And that’s OK. Since 2011, AFT-Wisconsin union members and leaders across the state have been fighting for—and winning—real change in the workplace through organized, member-driven campaigns. We’ll hear about three successful local campaigns at our convention next week in Green Bay—leaders from the Wisconsin Heights Federation of Teachers, the UW-Madison Teaching Assistants’ Association, and UW-Green Bay United will discuss their efforts at our Friday joint luncheon. I know that many of your locals have engaged in similar campaigns or have begun campaign planning sessions with our staff. For our movement to continue the rebuilding process, it’s essential that our efforts at the local union level continue, without interruption, regardless of tomorrow’s election results.

 It’s up to us as local leaders to set the tone. Expecting Mary Burke to save our unions, or expressing defeatism and hopelessness over a second Walker term—they both tell our members that they are powerless. Of course a Mary Burke victory will be a huge shot in the arm for our members and our movement (particularly our members in state service, who will see the most immediate results from a Burke win). But it’s our job, as union leaders, to focus on where we do have power—and our power is greatest in an organized workplace and an organized community.

If Mary Burke wins on Tuesday, we—all of us—should let our members know that their hard work has paid off and will be a great improvement for our state. But a new governor can’t repeal Act 10 without a legislature that will work with her.  And if Scott Walker wins, we should acknowledge our grief, and our members’ grief, but keep our focus on our strength—our organized local unions. But whoever wins tomorrow, in our local unions, our work will remain the same—organizing for positive change in our workplaces and our communities. Since the day that Act 10 was passed, we’ve known that this will be a long fight, and we’ve had three years to rebuild our unions for success. Our strength is where it’s always been—in standing together for what we know is right.

Thank you all for all that you do. One of the best things about being your AFT-Wisconsin president has been visiting your locals and learning about the amazing work that you and your members do every day. You make this an organization I’m proud to be a part of, and I know that no matter the result tomorrow, we’ll be ready to face it.

In solidarity,
Kim Kohlhaas
President, AFT-Wisconsin
6602 Normandy Lane
Madison, WI 53719

Letter quoted in its entirety as requested by WSP President.