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Union Bullying

A few weeks ago, I got a call from someone looking for help with the most awful union bullying story I have ever heard. It was abusive and criminal and despite my tough NY exterior, it brought me to tears.  How could people be so cruel to their coworkers in the name of “solidarity”? We wouldn’t accept this behavior from children, why do we accept it from special interest groups like unions?  

I’m always torn about how and when to share the stories people tell us about bullying because I don’t want anyone to be afraid to leave their union or speak out about union misconduct because of fear of retaliation. But I also want others to know that unions aren’t always the nice guys. How can we shine a light on this behavior without scaring people from speaking out?

Often, the bullying from unions is directed at members, but that’s not always the case.  My co-worker Suzanne recently wrote about a bus driver in New York that was bullied into retirement. This week, a school board member in Minneapolis – a former teacher! – made the decision to resign because the union was protesting outside of his home. Of course, the union is free to voice their opposition to actions of the school board but imagine how his family must have felt with all this chaos outside their home. Unions have even been sued for bullying employers. 

The AFL-CIO claims to be working to “ensure all working people are treated ‘fairly’” and the American Federation of Teachers mission states it “is a union of professionals that champions fairness.” Bullying employers whose workers don’t want to unionize, yelling outside the homes of elected officials that aren’t complying with union demands, and ganging up on coworkers hardly seems fair.

From what we have seen at AFFT, when people do speak out and go public with their story, they receive greater protection from bullying and retaliation. The spotlight scares union bullies off, especially because we have friends who are lawyers who can help with this sort of thing. So, if you’ve been bullied by the union, please reach out to AFFT.  We’d love to help make your situation better. We hope that shining a light on union bullying will make unions more accountable for their behavior.

Brigette Herbst

Brigette Herbst is the Senior Organizing Director of Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2018, Brigette’s career included working in the public sector for New York State, teaching elementary school, coaching high school sports, and working as a municipal county employee. This unique experience offers Brigette an inside perspective on public employee culture in New York. She focuses on educating New Yorkers about their constitutional rights with regard to union membership and promoting fair treatment of workers. Brigette has her bachelor’s degree in history and politics and her master’s degree in elementary education. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and planning trips for her family.