What Labor Day Means for Us

As we celebrate this year’s Labor Day, we should stop for a moment and remember where our rights as public employees came from.  Unlike many workers in the private sector who can look back to the New Deal era for the birth of their right to unionize, public sector employees in California did not have the right to collectively bargain until the mid-1970s.  We got them as a result of a former California Federation of Teachers member, State Senator Albert Rodda, a former history and economics professor at Sacramento City College who left his position to go into politics and helped change our lives for the better.

As one historian notes, “Rodda’s focus on education had been reflected in his legislative career, during which he spent several years as chair of the Senate Education Committee. While over six hundred of his bills were enacted into law, for most knowledgeable people the words ‘Rodda Act’ refer to the landmark measure (SB 160) that established the right of public school teachers to collective bargaining. SB 160 was born of the Senator’s personal knowledge of the stark imbalance between the rights of teachers and the authority of administrators and school boards. Both he and his wife, Clarice Horgan Rodda, had been teachers in Sacramento high schools.”

With the passage of the Rodda Act all public education employees had the right to form a real union and negotiate for better wages, health care benefits, safety conditions, class sizes, and evaluation procedures.  It literally changed the landscape for education workers and left the bad old days of “meet and beg” consultations with administrations behind.

Rodda’s Union Recognition Act was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 1976.  Brown and Rodda also played a key role in ushering in a new era of collective bargaining for California’s farm workers when Governor Brown signed the Agricultural Labor Relations Act and then appointed Rodda to a seat on the Agricultural Labor Relations Board.

So, as you enjoy your day off this weekend, remember what Labor Day is all about for us in the public sector and remember Albert Rodda and Jerry Brown who made much of what we enjoy as public sector employees today possible.   You might also think of volunteering to help in the Brown campaign ( http://action.jerrybrown.org/signup_page/ofa ) or joining our AFT COPE to ensure that Wall Street Whitman doesn’t get her chance to take it all away.

Have a Great Labor Day Weekend!
From Your Brothers and Sisters at AFT Guild, Local 1931