Tuesday, November 7, 2017

What would A.J. do?

“The social justice movement cannot replicate the systems of oppression that we are struggling against.”

- Lynn Lewis, past Muste Institute board member and
former director of Muste grantee Picture the Homeless,
in a letter of solidarity sent to the Muste Staff Union

Thanks to all of you who signed our petition and wrote letters protesting the retaliatory firing of Jane Guskin, and asking the Muste Institute to bargain in good faith with our independent staff union.

We really appreciate your solidarity! We're trying to step up the pressure, so please keep sharing our petition with friends and colleagues through email and social media:


Tell the Muste Institute:

Bargain in good faith! We had a bargaining session with Muste management in late September. Management did not immediately dismiss our contract proposals, and agreed to a follow-up meeting in October. We were cautiously optimistic … until they canceled that meeting on a flimsy pretext. The meeting has now been rescheduled, but we won't be surprised if they cancel on us again. Stop delaying, and take the negotiations seriously!

Stop holding salaries hostage! Muste management has frozen staff salaries at their 2015 levels, refusing to pay our regular annual cost-of-living salary increases while contract negotiations continue. At the September meeting, they told us flat out that if we want those raises, we will have to accept their “best and final offer.” Playing games with our livelihood is unfair!

Do the right thing! We believe the only reason management is meeting with us at all is because if they refuse to bargain, it will weaken their position in our unfair labor practice case. Our charges are winding their way through the rigorous National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) investigation process, and we've got help from a great legal team at the Cornell University Labor Law Clinic. All we want is justice. Yet instead of holding out an olive branch, Muste management is focused on fighting the charges. Why?

No more excuses! Muste management still refuses to discuss Jane's termination with the union or anyone else. They cite “confidentiality,” but whose confidentiality are they trying to protect? Certainly not Jane's. She wants transparency, and has offered to sign a confidentiality waiver. Management also claims they can't discuss it because of the NLRB case. But a legal case doesn't block the parties from sitting down to talk. In fact, the NLRB can require management to meet with us to discuss a possible resolution. Why wait? We've had the door open from the start.

Honor A.J.'s legacy! From the moment we formed our independent staff union, our goal was to sit down amicably with the Muste board of directors to work out mutually agreeable and fair processes and policies. Instead, management decided to take an adversarial route, bringing in an attorney who specializes in “union avoidance” to head up their team. Have they forgotten about the labor leader and nonviolent activist who inspired their mission? It's not too late to do what A.J. Muste would have done: treat us with respect, and meet with us as colleagues.

Help us hold the Muste Institute accountable to its social justice mission and values.

For more information, see our website at https://ajmustestaffunion.blogspot.com/. If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact us at musteunion [at] gmail.com.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tell the Muste Institute: Respect Workers' Rights!

A message from the AJ Muste Staff Union
September 24, 2017

“We'll meet with you, but we won't consider your proposals. We're done bargaining.”

That's not an exact quote of Muste management. But it's pretty close. They have agreed to meet with us this Tuesday, September 26 … but here's what they said:
Jane Guskin’s termination is not an issue to be discussed at the bargaining table. … [W]e are happy to meet with you and discuss the contract. As we said at the end of our last meeting, this version is our best offer. We can talk about minor adjustments, but if we cannot come to an agreement, we will have reached an impasse.
Why an impasse? There are still unresolved points to work through in the contract, and we deserve answers to our questions about Jane's unjust firing. We've put a lot of time and energy into this process because we want a contract that upholds A.J. Muste's values and makes us all proud. We're not there yet.

Help us keep the pressure on! Tell Muste management:
  • Bargain in good faith and give fair consideration to the union's contract proposals.
  • Meet with the union to resolve Jane's unjust termination.

Please act now! If you haven't yet taken action, there's still time!
  • Sign our online petition: http://www.coworker.org/petitions/ajmuste-meet-with-the-union-about-unjust-firing and forward it to your friends and contacts.
  • Write your own letter, expressing your concerns about Muste management's refusal to bargain in good faith, and about Jane's firing. Address it to the Muste Institute board of directors, and email it to the union at musteunion@gmail.com. Be sure to say in your letter if you are a grantee, donor, sponsored project, tenant, ally/partner group, current or former Muste board member, etc.
Our message:
  • Muste management's refusal to continue bargaining is an insult to the legacy of A.J. Muste, who was known for his commitment to dialogue, as well as for his activism for workers' rights.
  • Jane's termination violates the Muste Institute personnel policy, and is an attack on our independent union's struggle for workplace justice.
  • Jane's termination violates three of the “shared understandings” that Muste management has agreed to uphold and to enshrine in the collective bargaining agreement:
    • The staffing policies and practices of the Employer should reflect at all times the values of nonviolence, social justice, fairness, and equality which are at the core of AJMMI’s mission.
    • People work best when they are treated with respect and care for their human needs.
    • Investment in staff knowledge and experience serves AJMMI’s mission.

Solidarity forever! An injury to one is an injury to all!

Questions? Email us at musteunion@gmail.com.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Three years after we formed our union, we're still trying to win a first contract. It has been a roller coaster. Stay tuned for an update in the next few days. Or if you're curious, email us for details at musteunion at gmail.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

We Are the A.J. Muste Staff Union!

As staff members of the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute, we are excited to announce that the Muste Institute's Board of Directors voted on December 10, 2014, to voluntarily recognize the A.J. Muste Staff Union to represent us.

A.J. Muste's early activism was as a labor organizer, and he remained fiercely committed to the rights of workers throughout his career. We are proud to continue that legacy, and to set an example for other nonprofit workers. And we are gratified that the Muste Institute board has demonstrated its commitment to “walking the walk” of supporting worker organizing.

We look forward to a new chapter at the Muste Institute, in which the mutual respect and strong collaboration we already enjoy will be deepened through the framework of a collective bargaining agreement.

Please help us thank and congratulate the Muste Institute for taking this important step:

- Send a contribution to the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute for its work supporting nonviolent action for social justice; write a pro-union message such as “I welcome the union!” or “Congrats on the union!” on the memo line or on a separate note with your gift. (Mail checks to AJMMI at 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012 or donate online here)

- Show us some love! “Like” the Muste Staff Union on Facebook (click here!), and follow us on Twitter (@MusteUnion). Not on social media? Send us an email, so we can keep in touch with you.

- Spread the word about the Muste Staff Union through social media and word of mouth. Attention from progressive or mainstream media is welcome, too—email us at MusteUnion@gmail.com.

Thanks for your support!