In May 2014, 130 unionists, community organization leaders, and researchers gathered at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, to plan a new approach to public budget campaigns that united public service workers and the communities they serve. We called it “Bargaining for the Common Good.”
Representatives from community organizations and unions came from Washington, Oregon, California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio. Local unions attending bargain on behalf of nearly ten percent of the nation’s unionized public service workers. We reached consensus on these broad points:
- WORK TOGETHER AND ALIGN OUR INTERESTS: Acting alone, public service workers and unions cannot defend themselves indefinitely and community organizations cannot reverse years of service cuts. Public service workers and community partners must work together to go on the offensive. In the same way that budget fights provide arenas for union and community members to work together, collective bargaining offers unions a unique opportunity to engage unionized public service workers and community allies around demands and campaigns that align their mutual interests around the common good.
- CHALLENGE THE FINANCIAL SECTOR: Going on the offensive must involve taking on the forces of financialization, privatization, and tax-scamming that are distorting the economy, driving surging inequality, and opening the public sector to private plunder.
- WORK LOCAL TO ACT NATIONAL: The fragmentation of public service unions into tens of thousands of different bargaining units and the proliferation of issue-based advocacy groups makes it easier for the proponents of austerity to set the terms of the debate. By acting in unison and bargaining for the common good, a determined band of unions and community groups in key states can change the national conversation.
- ACT NOW: With a slew of major contracts coming up for renegotiation and no national elections to distract our focus we can make 2015 a turning point year in the public sector if enough of us pull together.