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Keller @ Large: President of Mass. AFL-CIO Says Union Popularity Is Up

BOSTON (CBS) -- A few times a year Jon Keller likes to check in what is going on with the labor movement.

A recent case (Janus v. AFSCME) that went before the Supreme Court was an argument an Illinois public employee made against his local labor union. He said he should not have to pay his "fair-share fee" because it contributed to political activity he did not support.

President of Massachusett's AFL-CIO Steve Tolman said that the case was brought about "initially by a hedge-fund governor, the governor of California. And then it was moved around. It's really funded by the billionaires and millionaires in the right wing, trying to destroy organized labor in this country.

"This fellow Janus, he couldn't have a complaint politically because his money couldn't be used politically, his money is used strictly for negotiations and that's what that fair share is about."

Keller brought up the argument that unions could be so politically motivated that it seems into everything they do. Tolman refuted, "organized labor has to have an agenda to counter corporate America's agenda."

He added,"What they are trying to do is attack the fundamental right for us to be able to have money for our activities."

Citizens United v. FEC, essentially opened up the doors for corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money toward elections. Tolman said unions now run under stricter regulations than corporations.

He said organized labor is being attacked. "When in reality, Jon, what do we stand for? For dignity on the job, for workplace safety, we fight for pensions and healthcare, and we fight for a decent hourly wage."

According to Tolman, there is no disconnect between union leaders and the workers.

"Our popularity is going through the roof, people are understanding the depth and the need for organized labor especially in America today."

While Tolman said unions were not all about politics, he did not shy away from discussing a few political topics himself.

The Local 25 has endorsed Gov. Charlie Baker for re-election, but Tolman said he personally, most likely will not.

"But I got to tell you, because I may not endorse him, I've worked well with him. I've worked with him on [opioid] addiction and I've complimented on his work there, and at the same time, I've told him where I think there are shortcomings."

One such shortcoming, Tolman thought, was the state's lack of investment in higher education.

He continued, "We're Americans first, Jon. We're Americans. It's too far today where people think you're either a Democrat or a Republican and there's no in between. We need to work together as Americans first and stop this divide where nobody can get along."

As an organization, Tolman said no decision has been made about a formal endorsement.

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