Lisa Ohlen attending the 2018 Shop Steward Seminar.
When Lisa Ohlen, a Teamster at King County Recorder’s Office, attended a union meeting explaining the Supreme Court case that could turn public unions across country into open shops, she was shocked and dismayed. She knew what the deceivingly inviting term open shop meant for workers: loss of their united voice and consequent transfer of power and control into employer’s hands.
“One of the first things to go would be our health benefits, and we have worked really hard to get those. We don’t want to go down the path of Wisconsin,” she said with concern in her voice.
Knowing that she is up against the corporate power and wealth pushing for division at her own workplace, she refused to retreat in defeated silence.
"Even in a right-to-work environment, we will still maintain a strong union."
“I wanted to get the message out to my co-workers immediately,” she recalls. Armed with Teamsters commitment cards and battling misinformation, Lisa got her entire team talking about this case and doing their own research to prepare for the upcoming change.
Her co-worker, Mark Baker, who has been a union member for 15 years, explained his own motivation to remain a Teamster. “It’s not worth saving the union dues to lose everything else. Strong unions seem like a bad idea only when you are sitting at the top and don’t want to pay the people who do the work any more than you absolutely have to.”
Working together, the King County Recorder’s Office got 100% of their co-workers to commit to staying in the union regardless of the Supreme Court ruling. They even swayed the management to their side.
“Despite a right-to-work environment, we will still maintain a strong union. It is smart to stick together,” concluded Lisa.
Open shop is an attack on democracy, yet it is powerless in face of workers standing together in solidarity. No one can tell us how strong our union will be; we are the ones who decide it.