fbpx Skip to content

What if we meet in the middle?

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.

One of my favorite writers hates me. Well, I assume he hates me. He most certainly loathes my belief in free markets and limited government.
Hamilton Nolan is a talented writer who has spent the last decade writing about labor unions. I am not alone in the Mr.-Nolan-is-a-great-writer fan club. My colleagues also follow his work, and there is always a rush of excitement when one of us shares a link to his latest piece.
Our Slack conversation usually goes something like this, “Hamilton has a new article!” “Huzzah!” “Oh, he makes a really great point about such and such.” And on the discussion goes until we end our conversation about Hamilton and his thoughtful writing with, “Well, he probably hates us, so there’s no chance he would talk with us.”
Ahem. Perhaps there is hope for our dream to talk with our favorite writer.
This week, Hamilton wrote an article that showed me we may hold similar beliefs on the value of an independent union. Perhaps this is the Horseshoe Theory at play, or perhaps our goals are more aligned than I realized.
The article is entitled, “Independent Unions are Great – and Proof of Labor’s Broken Institutions,” and while it focuses on private unions – a topic that’s outside the scope of AFFT’s work, which focuses solely on public servants – it still speaks to the why behind what we do.
They say you should start a tough conversation on the points in which you agree, so here goes.
I believe Hamilton and I want people to be enabled to do their best work. I believe we would agree this means people are treated with dignity, paid fairly, and are ensured a safe work environment. I suspect Mr. Nolan also values the First Amendment and recognizes the fact that people should be free to associate.
Now for the part in the path where we may diverge. I believe people should never be forced to associate with a political group with which they disagree, particularly in the workplace. I believe people can be trusted to advocate for themselves. I also believe employers can do the right thing – pay fair wages, provide competitive benefits, and ensure workplace safety – without the politicking of Big Labor. Mr. Nolan may say no workplace will be safe until it is unionized, but I think market forces can influence positive change on behalf of workers.
Enough divergence. Back to where we agree with Mr. Nolan: Community is vital.
Last week, we hosted two Zoom calls for AFFT’s newest members from Connecticut. One of the members shared their feelings of isolation and sadness over their assumption that they were the only one in their workplace who walked away from the union. AFFT’s Membership & Logistics Manager piped up to say, “Well, I’m happy to let you know there are several other people in your workplace who have also become AFFT members.”
It was at that point we wished Hamilton was with us to see the strength of this individual – no longer alone, no longer associated with an organization with whom they disagreed. The encouragement our new member felt was palpable, even over a video call.
Ah, if only we could have a conversation with our favorite writer. Maybe one day.

Sign Up For Updates!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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.