In Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his Republican-held legislature rammed through a law stripping public-sector unions of their bargaining rights despite the lack of a quorum and a judge’s temporary restraining order.
Over the weekend in Maine, Governor Paul LePage removed a 36-foot, 11-panel mural from the state’s Department of Labor, a mural depicting….laborers.
In the nation’s capital, Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill that would achieve nationally what several state legislatures are attempting to do individually: reduce unions to nothing more than a few pages in the history books.
All of this frantic (and in many cases, covert) activity begs the question: Are they succeeding?
Well, it looks like some of the corporate-backed puppets, like Walker and LePage, may have won some skirmishes. But at what price?
It seems that these battles over collective bargaining and the rights of workers have generally had the same effect on unions that water has on a gas fire: they have spread rapidly and strengthened in intensity.
A recent article on the AFL-CIO blog has labeled this as a “watershed opportunity for working people.” The author of the article, James Parks, notes in his blog that efforts by politicians like Governors Walker and LePage to decimate unions has, at least for now, created growing support for unions.
In the article, Joseph McCartin, director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor and associate professor at Georgetown University, is quoted as saying that these efforts to take away union’s bargaining rights have opened the flood gates of opportunity for workers.
Referring to a New York Times poll showing that more than 40 percent of those polled had neither a positive or a negative view of unions, professor McCartin noted that this response indicated that the public’s opinion of unions is in flux and added:
“Suddenly you have an opportunity to explain…why unions are necessary; why they are vital in a democracy; and to do it in a way that connects to people’s realities. Walker has given you an opportunity to make a case that you haven’t had an opportunity to make on the national stage in a while….You must seize this opportunity and make the most of it.”
As I noted in an earlier posting, the current attack on working people has produced a lot of commentary, articles and letters to the editor concerning bargaining rights in particular and unions in general. I’ve noticed over the last few weeks that my local paper, The High Point Enterprise, has published several commentaries on unions, the majority of which have been negative. As a result, I saw it necessary to add my two-cents worth. My letter is in Tuesday’s paper and above it in bold type is this headline: “Unions Helped Build Our Nation’s Middle Class.” That’s a fact that’s hard to dispute (but, of course, there are those who will).
I would encourage those of you who are pro-union (and I hope the majority of you who read this are), would write a letter to your local paper letting the public know what unions have done for this country and for middle class workers. As professor McCartin points out in his column, we, as concerned unionists, must seize this opportunity and make the most of it.
And while I’m on the subject of union activism, I’d like to remind you that numerous activities are being planned for Monday, April 4, all over the country in support of those workers whose rights are under siege and in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated on that date 43 years ago in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s called “We Are One.”
If you would like to participate in one of those events being planned here in North Carolina, please go here.
If you would like to read Professor McCartin’s article, “Turning Point: An Address to the AFL-CIO Executive Council,” you may go here.
I’ll close today with this quote from Dr. King, they are words worth remembering:
“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”