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Unions are big business

The following is an excerpt from our Saturday email, which includes our musings on the latest developments impacting public employees, links to that week’s labor news, and a collection of whimsical reads for your weekend. If you’d like to receive our weekly email, you can use the sign-up form at the bottom of this page. We promise to respect your inbox, and we will never share your email address.

Many moons ago, I worked in the music industry. The perks of working in that industry would have made my 15-year-old self swoon. CDs by the bucket full. Meet and greets with artists. And all the concert tickets I could get my hands on.

So, when I tell you a former colleague and I ended up with three sets of tickets to see The Cure in one concert in Orange County, CA, remember those aforementioned perks.

There we were rotating through our three sets of seats between songs. The band was as phenomenal as I hoped they’d be. And the fans were, well, a delightful surprise. Large families from Mexico had traveled many miles to see the band play live. Grown men in white tank tops and slicked back hair openly wept as Robert Smith played. They’d give my colleague and me a thumbs up in solidarity as we all belted out our favorite songs. Naïve me was surprised to see this beautifully diverse audience.

And that’s when I learned a lesson that has served me well: You are not your audience.

It’s that mantra that pushes AFFT to continuously listen to public employees. We completed two focus groups this week, and yet again I was surprised to learn many public employees view unions as a local group of workers pushing back against a tyrannical employer. Now, I can’t speak for the employer, but I can say government unions are not small groups of employees working together.

No, government unions like the National Education Association (NEA) are massive machines working to achieve a political agenda.

Just check out their LM2, a tax document filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. In 2020, the NEA reported a whopping $442,934,831 in total assets.

That doesn’t sound like the bank ledger of a small group of employees working together.  

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Elisabeth Messenger

Elisabeth Messenger is CEO of Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector workers offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2020, Elisabeth was in the publicity department at Atlantic Records in Los Angeles, CA. From there, she learned how to build organizations that would impact culture through positions in operations and business development at Universal Music Group, VEVO, and Beats Music.