As a local union leader I often feel as though I am swimming upstream,often struggling against the current to accomplish a task that is needed for the survival of my local. Unlike salmon who swim upstream to propagate their species then die each year, union leaders struggle many years then ultimately hand over the reigns to another to continue on the never ending trek against the current.
Last year the current was particularly strong for me, as I negotiated a new labor agreement for my members. I had to deal with man made obstacles such as New York State Governor Cuomo’s tax cap, the rise in health care costs, APPR, and the public’s yen to make teachers our national scapegoats. I successfully navigated my way through those obstacle and ensured that my local will continue to thrive.
As I look upstream I see rapids ahead that are unlike any I have ever seen before. The Supreme Court may add an insurmountable obstacle in our way. Friedrichs v California Teachers Association could be the death knell for our union. But unlike the salmon, we have legs. Our legs are our members that can get us out of the strong opposition current and lead us along a portage around the deadly obstacle.
The really bad news though is, the salmon are dying before they even have the chance to battle the current. They can not handle the hot waters due to climate change. And just like the salmon we could die as well unless our union sisters and brothers resist the urge to sit back and hope someone else will take the lead.
Apathy will sap our strength and destroy us as the public climate heats up all around us. We may never have the chance to use our legs and sidestep the obstacles around us.