When I couldn’t find a parking space, I knew it was going to be a good day. Nearly 600 members of a dozen unions, and their supporters, jammed the lobby of the United Steelworkers building in downtown Pittsburgh on Thursday, spilling onto the entry steps, sidewalk, and street. We were all there to support the Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana public employees and send a message to our elected representatives. One man’s sign said “Fight Like an Egyptian”.
Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, all Democratic County Council members, the entire Pittsburgh City Council, and several Democratic state legislators attended. Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl didn’t bother to show up, and no one was surprised.
Scott Walker is a liar. This fight is not about budgets. This is not about overpaid and underworked teachers, or firefighters, or public employees. This is a deliberate, organized attack on every working person in America.
Unlike most Americans, Republican politicians know that American labor unions created the middle class. They know that every benefit, every right, every ounce of progress for working people came directly from the labor unions.
They know that the labor unions are the last defenders of American rights at work. But they don’t want you to know it. They want you to believe that all union workers are lazy, stupid, incompetent, overpaid, and undisciplined. It’s a standard divide-and-conquer tactic. Don’t believe me? The National Republican Governor’s Association has launched “standwithscott.com”, a website dedicated to busting the Wisconsin public employee unions. In his infamous telephone conversation with a man he believed to be his billionaire patron David Koch, Governor Scott Walker admitted that Wisconsin is just the first domino in the grand scheme.
Republican legislators in ten states have now introduced proposals to limit or eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees. Those states are Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Illinois, California, Michigan, Alaska, Iowa, and New Jersey.
This latest campaign didn’t start in the Midwest by accident. Republican strategists know that Midwesterners are more conservative than the average American. They’re more likely to vote Republican and less likely to raise a ruckus when provoked. But they underestimated the strength of the fight aspect of the “fight or flight” reflex. They thought this would be a pushover.
The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 guarantees ALL Americans a constitutional right to collective bargaining. In 1948, the U.S. Senate adopted the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes the right to join labor unions. Article VI of the U.S. Constitution says:
“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
Governors Scott Walker (Wisconsin), John Kasich (Ohio), and Mitch Daniels (Indiana), and the legislators of all ten states, took oaths to uphold both the U.S. and their state Constitutions. Their actions violate those constitutions and, thus, their oaths. They are violating federal law. Every one of them deserves to be impeached.
So. What are your plans for the weekend? Without labor unions, you wouldn’t have a weekend. Every American enjoys at least a minimum wage, eight hour workday, child labor, anti-discrimination, workplace health and safety, unemployment and workers’ compensation laws because the unions fought for them. Health insurance and paid vacations, sick days, and holidays are common, but will vanish if the unions fall.
If the public employee unions do fall, the private employee unions are next. And just who do you think the next target will be?
Wisconsin brings two new slogans to our civil rights lexicon. To bolster their spirits, the demonstrators chant in the state capitol rotunda, “One Day Longer!” and “This is what democracy looks like!”
They’re not only fighting for themselves. They’re fighting for you, and for all of our grandchildren. For more than 40 years, complacent Americans have let the unions do the fighting for them. It’s time for all Americans to stand up and fight for themselves.
I am always moved when attending events like this. The strength, solidarity, determination, and commitment to justice are palpable and heart-warming. Yet I wonder how many of these dedicated middle class union workers will turn around and vote for Republicans again at the next election. If they do, they will deserve what they get.
For the record, I want President Barack Obama to explain to us all just why he has abandoned his campaign promise to walk the picket line with workers being denied their bargaining rights .
“In Germany, the Nazis came for the Communists, and I did not speak up because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak up because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak up because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I did not speak up because I am a Protestant. And then they came for me. And by that time there was no one left to speak up.” – Martin Niemoller, 1945
“This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.” – Theodore Roosevelt
My husband has been a union Ironworker for 32 years. He works hard, and we have a good life. I am the American middle class. And I will not let Scott Walker and his thugbuddies destroy my life.
For more information:
Public union battles spread across US
Why You Need a Union
National Labor Relations Act
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (See Article 23)
Read the Constitution