The right to collective bargaining for public employees in Nebraska has been upheld, the result of a deal reached in May between lawmakers and union activists led by members of Nebraska Association of Public Employees (NAPE)/AFSCME Local 61.
NAPE Exec. Dir. Julie Dake Abel notes that Nebraska, a traditionally conservative state, “has been able to accomplish something that other states – labor friendly ones – have not been able to do.”
That is, with a signature by Gov. Dave Heineman (R) last week, Nebraskans managed to avoid the tumultuous course taken by right-wing governors in Ohio, Wisconsin and other states where basic worker rights have been revoked or imperiled.
What happened in Nebraska suggests that many lawmakers see a reasonable alternative to the corporate agenda to weaken workers’ power. In conjunction with other public unions in Nebraska and the state AFL-CIO, “ NAPE has managed to preserve collective bargaining in the face of a business climate that wanted it repealed if a compromise could not be reached.
The groundwork laid by NAPE and its allies paid off.
“We held joint rallies in Omaha and Lincoln throughout the winter and spring in solidarity with our Wisconsin brothers and sisters, as well as building our own fight,” explains Abel. “We built alliances with community organizations that also held rallies in support of public employees and collective bargaining.”
Activists got on the phone to call state senators individually and by volunteering at phone banks. They also sent e-mails, met personally with lawmakers and their staffs and packed legislative hearing rooms until they overflowed.
“We fought them trying to take away our union and our collective bargaining rights,” says Abel. “We have won. We were not for the taking.”