2018 has been a remarkable and busy year for the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers Local 400. President Nina Esposito-Visgitis has weathered the storm of the Janus decision, a nationwide tide-turning for teachers’ unions, negotiated a contract, embarked on a rigorous recommitment campaign and thrown in for the most important Pennsylvania election cycle in years.
“I can’t remember a more active and energized election for our local”, said President Esposito-Visgitis. “We formally kicked off our recommitment campaign in January. And now more than 86% of present members have already recommitted”. After the Janus decision, Esposito-Visgitis remarks that her union is growing, and members are excited to join.
While teachers in right to work states across the country have been standing up for their unions and their students, the PFT Local 400 has been right next to them. “We stood with our brothers and sisters in West Virginia and Oklahoma as they struck for fair wages. We were in negotiations at the same time, and to see what they were going through in right to work states was absolutely appalling.”
The Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers ratified their new contract last Spring. “We had been in status quo for a year. We were four days away from a strike. . . We want the best and brightest teachers here in Pittsburgh and to support our early childhood educators, but seeing what they were going through in other states was terrible.”
Altogether, the experiences have underscored the need to keep and re-elect Pennsylvania’s Governor in November. “We are so lucky to have Tom Wolf. As Governor he has restored so much of what Corbett stole from our students. He’s done tremendous things for career and technical education and workforce development. We need to keep him in Harrisburg. Scott Wagner is way, WAY worse than Tom Corbett ever was.”
In addition to passionately supporting the reelection of Governor Wolf, President Esposito-Visgitis and the members of PFT Local 400 have been enthusiastically supporting women candidates across southwest Pennsylvania. On Thursday, September 27 at 4:30 pm, PFT Local 400 will host a “Remarkable Women in Politics” gathering at 10 South 19th Street, Pittsburgh. Among them will be PFT 400’s own Lindsey Williams, who is running as the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO endorsed candidate for State Senate District 38.
Having happily been in the classroom for 21 years as a special education – speech and language specialist, President Esposito-Visgitis considers in an honor and a joy to be in the service of public education. She has spent more than 16 years on staff with the American Federation of Teachers and has served the last 7 years as President of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers Local 400.
If you ask, Nina Esposito-Visgitis what she is most proud of for her union, her response is unequivocal. “Our member to member outreach, engagement and communication is foundational. It is the hallmark of our union and makes recommitment, organizing and mobilizing a natural process. We are always talking with and communicating with our members like it’s second nature. I just love it.” Post-Janus, the media and the right-wing were more than ready to take aim at union members, but the passion and dedication of PFT Local 400 and so many other unions and labor leaders are proving them wrong. “Don’t mess with my union,” says President Nina Esposito-Visgitis.