BOSTON (CBS) — Steven Tolman, president of the Massachusetts American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, better known as the AFL-CIO, was in the WBZ studios to talk with Jon Keller in the wake of two major political motions that concern the interests of Massachusetts workers.
In a 5-4 ruling on the Janus v. AFSCME case, the Supreme Court struck down mandatory laws in 22 states, including Massachusetts, that require workers in unionized workplaces to pay dues even if they don’t want to join the union.
“I guess I would ask the viewers, any of you out there: what do you know that you get serviced for and don’t have to pay?” asked Tolman, in response to Keller’s question on how that would affect Massachusetts. “The American government has basically said to the labor movement that ‘you’re going to continue representing all of these individuals and by the way, they don’t have to pay,'” said Tolman.
He continued, “This is the same court that said to corporations: you’re like people and you can donate an unlimited money to politics but this is a direct attack at that ability for the labor movement to do the same.” Under Citizens United, labor unions do also have the ability to donate an unlimited amount of money.
“Today, even under such an adverse ruling from a court case funded by the wealthy special interests in this country, here in Massachusetts, we’re gaining union members, there’ve been union members reaching out, organizing.”
Tolman also said the majority of AFL-CIO new members are under 35. “So the young future workers understand how important it is to have a union contract.”
He believes the Massachusetts AFL-CIO is doing a good job of educating its members and marketing to new members.
“The tax break is another example of… over the last 30 years, Jon, 40 years, the middle class has lost economic power between 30 and 38 percent and the wealthy haven’t. So a lot has been pushed on the middle class and I think the employees are fed up,” said Tolman.
Tolman fought back when Keller asked if he wanted to change his tactics after a few of the union’s moves upset the average Joe. Keller pointed to the fact that some parents wanted to take advantage of charter schools and Tolman’s effort to try banning paid initiative petition signatures.
“There should be one public school. One public school system, not going off on a two-tiered system. Charter schools were an experiment in the early 1990s, we were supposed to take what was good and bring it back to public school systems, that never happened,” Tolman said. “Bottom line: we didn’t anger anybody, we worked hard and convinced the public that we need one public school. Our public schools are suffering because of charter schools because they are draining money from public schools.”
Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill Thursday to increase the minimum wage, require paid leave for workers and mandate an annual August sales tax holiday in Massachusetts. Tolman doesn’t agree with this “grand bargain.”
While the increase in minimum wage and paid leave were bound to happen eventually, he said, taking away Sunday overtimes hurts many people. “Unfortunately, many of us feel that the retail industry held the legislature hostage, in this case, Jon…it’s holiday pay too, it’s kind of a disgrace in my book.”
“That overtime, I’m sorry, I don’t think that should have been the trade-off. Although I’ve very pleased that so many people are going to benefit economically.”