Now is a good time to share my answer because workers are gathering in solidarity rallies across the country calling for respect, dignity, and a voice at work. Would Eleanor Roosevelt be supporting the union rights of teachers and nurses, fire fighters and police? The short answer is an empathetic "yes.
One of the most admired women in the world, Eleanor Roosevelt was a member of the Newspaper Guild for over 25 years and a staunch advocate for unions, which she came to view as a "fundamental element of democracy." She believed that everyone had a basic right to a voice at work. She argued for union rights in the public sector, while also campaigning to defeat state right-to-work laws.
But this call had a very personal touch for me. I was born and raised in East Liverpool, along the Ohio River. First the potteries left the valley and then the steelmills shut down. Good union jobs disappeared. The city struggles to survive and now the workers who provide vital services to the citizens and keep the town running are threatened with the loss of a basic human right in the name of yet another crisis they didn't create.
Gov. John Kasich not only proposes to end collective bargaining for public workers, he has shown his disdain for the workers Eleanor Roosevelt so admired by publicly calling the policemen "idiots." My brother was an Ohio State Highway Patrolman. His son is a policeman near Cleveland; not far from where his dad and I grew up. They deserve better. The men and women who protect our lives, teach our children, care for the sick, plow the snow, and keep the cities running deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
All unions and employers, public and private, need to maintain high standards of responsibility, accountability, and transparency. Taking away the rights of unions, however, is not the answer to the current fiscal problems. As Eleanor Roosevelt argued, we need a system where "All interests shall be equaly considered and concession shall never be expected from one side only." This is not about the money. As President Obama clearly stated, this is an "assault on unions."
Eleanor Roosevelt's belief in labor unions as a critical part of our democratic process began when she was a young debutante volunteering in the tenements on the lower east side of Manhattan, where she first learned about sweatshops. She walked her first picket line in 1926 to support a box makers' strike in New York. As First Lady, she refused to cross a picket line and proudly joined a union in 1936 at the height of the sit down strikes in Michigan, when workers were being attacked and fighting back. She told striking workers in 1941 that she felt it was important that "everyone who was a worker join a labor organization."
In 1945, after FDR's death, she took her belief in democracy at work to the United Nations and the task of framing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Under her guidance, working closely with union leaders, Article 23 declared that everyone, without discrimination, has the right to a decent job, fair working conditions, a living wage, equal pay for equal work, and the right to join a union.
Eleanor Roosevelt gave careful consideration to her positions. President Roosevelt was concerned about public employee unions, although not anti-union as some have suggested. His wife struggled with the issue in her newspaper column after his death, "My Day." In the 1950s, she finally concluded that unionization was necessary because employers in the public sector were little different from those in the private sector, refusing to listen to workers and treat them fairly.
"You cannot just refuse to meet with people," she wrote, "when they want to talk about their basic human rights." For teachers, police, and fire fighters she said that there was no "method of complaint and adjustment that could take the place of collective bargaining with the ultimate possibility of a strike." She told her readers that the striking teachers in 1962 had "no other recourse but to strike to draw attention to the legitimate complaints."
In 1958, as co-chair of a national council established to defeat right-to-work laws in six states, she called on "right-thinking citizens, from all walks of life" to challenge the "predatory and misleading campaigns." When human rights were invoked she called the argument a "calculated and cunning smoke screen to beguile the innocent and unknowing." She took greatest offense when the California ballot language suggested that FDR would support right-to-work laws, responding "The American public understands very well that Franklin Delano Roosevelt would never have supported such a reactionary doctrine."
When asked "Where, after all, do human rights begin?" Eleanor Roosevelt answered "In small places close to home... the neighborhood...the school...the factory, farm or office...unless they have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere." Her voice resonates today in support of workers in Ohio and across the country. Their voices were heard on April 4th. Workers rights are human rights.
American Rights at Work, Wed Apr 6 2011
Posted by: Brigid O'Farrell
The ITUC and the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA) are firmly opposed to the bill and are hoping for a new proposal in keeping with the fundamental rights of the ILO and the recommendations of the Committee of Experts on the Applications of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR). The bill drafted by the PRI does not include the proposal made by trade unions to eradicate the "protection contracts" making it virtually impossible for workers to form free and democratic unions that represent their interests. Proposed amendments to establish a 40-hour week as well as improvements to seniority bonuses and the holiday system were also rejected. "The rejection of these proposed amendments is unacceptable," said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow. "Once again, labour outsourcing, precarious contracts and unfair dismissals are being facilitated."
In a letter to the Mexican authorities, the ITUC urged President Felipe Calderón to take on board the trade unions' proposals and do everything possible to have the PRI bill withdrawn. It is essential that proposed labour reforms be drawn up within the framework of a genuinely tripartite process, including employers, the government and labour representatives, to ensure better protection of workers' human rights and create a legal foundation on which a national strategy can be built for sustainable and effective development.
ITUC-csi.org, Tues Apr 6 2011
Camden County Manager Randell Woodruff alleges the company owes around $2.9 million, including penalties and interest. Yet, the United States government permits multibillion-dollar companies to play by a different set of rules, while average Americans are asked to sacrifice their pensions and social services.
While Erik Prince gallivants around the planet, his pockets stuffed with untaxed revenue, educators and union members marched in the streets of Philadelphia yesterday to protest the state education budget that contains a 54 percent cut to public higher education spending.
Students like Azeem Hill approach the issue of education cuts, which oftentimes lead to tuition hikes, less myopically than some political leaders. "Youth violence is one of the reactions to educational deprivation," Hill said. "The more we send to jail, the more crime we can expect down the line."
In Florida, citizens joined a national day of union-led rallies honoring the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination by protesting Governor Rick Scott's appearance at an economic forum. Florida's rally was one part of more than 1,000 groups holding nationwide protests as part of the "We Are One" demonstrations. WR1 emphasizes that King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968 while standing in solidarity with sanitation workers who were demanding their dream: the right to collectively bargain for a "voice at work and a better life."
The WR1 chapter in Michigan attracted more than 500 supporters in downtown Muskegon. Participants carried signs that read "Stand Up For Workers Rights" and "Unions also are We the People." Meanwhile, more than 700 anti-union bills, many of them similar to laws in Wisconsin and Ohio, have been introduced in nearly every state in the country. Quite literally, labor is under attack, according to this protester in Detroit, where hundreds of union members rallied downtown yesterday.
"The pay cuts, the tax on pensions, it's just too much," said Horace Stallings, a grounds worker at Wayne State University and an AFSCME member who marched along with other members down Woodward.
"We can't take it. It's anti-labor to the core."
In New York City, more than 1,000 people, mostly local union members, rallied against budget cuts at City Hall. As Pat Gibbons from Communications Workers of America Local 1101 put it, "We want our fair share because we do the work."
The Notion, Tues Apr 5 2011
Lafer testified earlier today before a New Hampshire state Senate committee on proposed "right to work" for less legislation. In a study released this morning by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), he shines a light on the deceptive methodology used to derive these claims and the harm the laws could have on New Hampshire's economy.
Backers of the proposed legislation cite figures from the National Right to Work Committee to back up their job and economy claim. Says Lafer:
...the claims supplied by the Right to Work Committee are utterly without economic foundation. If a college student presented an analysis similar to the committee's for a graduate thesis, it would be rejected for faulty methodology. In America, anyone is free to advocate a personal ideological agenda, but both legislators and the public at large deserve to know the difference between ideological passion and scientific fact.
In "Right-to-Work: Wrong for New Hampshire," he writes:
Contrary to what RTW backers have claimed, the scientific analysis of right-to-work laws shows that they lower wages and benefits for both union and nonunion workers alike without exhibiting any positive impact on job growth.
Simply put, at a time of economic need, right-to-work laws are a prescription for further decline.
An earlier report, "The Compensation Penalty of ‘Right-to-Work' Laws," by EPI economists Elise Gould and Heidi Shierholz, found that wages in "right to work" states are 3.2 percent lower than in states without the law. Workers also are less likely to have employer-sponsored health insurance and employer-sponsored pensions.
A bill to force "right to work" for less was introduced this morning in the Pennsylvania State House. Pennsylvania is the 13th state this year to consider such legislation.
AFL-CIO Now Blog, Tues Apr 5 2011
Byline: Mike Hall
Bahrain's unions called a general strike on March 13 to support Shi'ite protesters against the Sunni-led government who for weeks occupied a square in the capital until security forces moved in on March 16. The strike was called off on March 22.
Officials at Batelco, Gulf Air, Bahrain Airport Services and APM Terminals Bahrain said they had laid off more than 200 workers due to absence during the strike.
"It's illegal in Bahrain and anywhere else in the world to just strike. You have to give two weeks' notice to your employer," said one executive who did not wish to be named.
Bahrain's main Shi'ite opposition group, Wefaq, said it estimated that more than 1,000 workers had been laid off and that most were Shi'ites.
"Unemployment has its effects on social relationships, the well-being of the society," said group member Jasim Husain.
Government officials could not be reached for comment on the arrests.
Bahrain has increased its arrests of bloggers, activists and Shi'ites, with more than 300 detained and dozens missing since last month's crackdown on the pro-democracy protests.
Bahrain has seen the worst sectarian clashes between its Shi'ite majority population and the Sunni-ruled security forces since the 1990s after Shi'ite protesters, inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, took to the streets in February.
The clashes have killed at least 13 protesters and four police and prompted Bahrain to declare martial law and invite troops by Sunni Gulf neighbors who are wary of the regional influence of Shi'ite neighbor Iran.
NERVOUS OR CONFIDENT?
Gala Riani of risk analysts IHS Global Insight said the sackings showed that the government felt under fire: "This shows, to some degree, both how nervous they (the rulers) are and also how confident they are."
"They feel like they've got the security situation under control, so they can fire people in the dozens or the hundreds without risking renewed mass protests."
After security forces crushed the protests, the government launched a crackdown on opposition activists, Shi'ite villages and media such as the only opposition newspaper, Al-Wasat.
It suspended the newspaper on Sunday, accusing it of falsifying news about the unrest, replaced the editor and resumed printing on Monday, the same day it arrested and expelled two journalists, both Iraqis.
A government spokeswoman said Al Wasat had broken press laws.
Some political analysts said large-scale dismissals of Shi'ite workers could speed up the disintegration of Bahrain's society into Shi'ite and Sunni enclaves.
"They're basically punishing people to the degree that they can, and I think in the long term this is a very risky strategy for them to take," IHS Global Insight's Riani said.
More lay-offs are expected at Bahrain Petroleum (Bapco) which has fired the head of its workers' union. Workers fear that hundreds could be fired at the company after parliament launched an investigation headed by a Sunni hardline deputy.
"Everybody is afraid," a worker who did not wish to be named told Reuters.
CNBC, Tues Apr 5 2011
In Washington, D.C., more than 1,000 marched in solidarity with workers under attack in Wisconsin, Ohio and across the country.
From Pocatello, Idaho, to Paris, France, and in hundreds of big cities and small towns in between, workers and community, civil rights, student and faith activists yesterday said We Are One with workers in Wisconsin, Ohio and everywhere middle-class jobs are under attack.
The first wave of more than 1,200 events that ran through this week coincided with the 43rd anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in Memphis, Tenn., where he was helping sanitation workers fight for justice, workers' rights and a voice with AFSCME.
In Memphis yesterday, more than 1,000-including veterans of the 1968 sanitation workers strike-braved a tornado watch and marched through the rain. AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Lee Saunders led the march and said that Republican lawmakers such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are:
attempting to change the rules to silence workers so that corporate influences can go unchecked. Their actions have awakened a powerful movement and we will not allow them to steal our power or our future....Isn't it ironic that on April 4, 2011, we are fighting the same fight they were on April 4, 1968?
At a rally yesterday evening, Saundra Williams, president of Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO, told the hundreds who marched through downtown Detroit chanting, "Bankers got bailed out, workers got sold out," that:
there isn't anything that we can't do as long as we are one. We can accomplish anything.
Carl Peters, a Postal Workers (APWU) member, told the Detroit Free Press:
"This is a rally in support of the right to collective bargaining; the right to have unions....The workers have rights, too. We're tired of the banks being bailed out while the working people suffer."
In Missoula, Mont., where several anti-worker bills are under consideration by the legislature, more than 100 people rallied along a busy commuter route. Sierra Club member Bob Clark told the Missoulian:
"It means a lot to be here and for others to be here. We are part of a larger movement that is taking place nationally. This is happening in other communities across the country and to be here brings out the message that no matter where we are, we are one, whether we are doing this for workers' rights or environmental justice."
Meanwhile in Helena, Greg Rollins from Ironworkers Local 732 joined about 1,500 others for a "No Fooling with Our Future Rally." He called the event "awesome" and reports, "I plan on attending as many as I can to support my union brothers and sisters." Click here for photos and here for video.
Dan Mercer reports from Ottawa, Ill., "Several hundred workers, union and nonunion, gathered in Washington Square Park to stand up to attacks on workers' rights and support the idea of the American Dream." High school history teacher Bob Bradish told the crowd:
Workers deserve respect. Workers deserve dignity. Workers must support those who stand for our ideals. We have made sacrifices. It is time for others-the wealthy-to make sacrifices
Nadia Valentine, a 15-year-old high school sophomore, wowed the crowd with a fiery speech that supported unions and their cause, reports The Ottawa Times.
Valentine said she had been taught by family and teachers "every benefit that a worker receives today came from the struggles of a union member." She promised she would not let her generation forget that fact.
From Afghanistan, Mary Heslin reports that a rally in support for We Are One that was scheduled in Kabul was canceled for security reasons. Instead, supporters made get out the vote calls for Wisconsin state Supreme Court candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg, who is running against a Scott Walker ally in today's election and is endorsed by the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.
AFL-CIO Now Blog, Tues Apr 5 2011
Byline: Mike Hall
« Such punitive actions, especially dismissals, for having taken part in legitimate demonstrations, is a flagrant violation of ILO Convention 111 concerning discrimination at work, which Bahrain has ratified, and of Convention 87 on Freedom of Association which Bahrain is obliged to respect. The ITUC will be pursuing this matter, and the situation in Bahrain in general, at the ILO including at the annual ILO Conference this June," added Burrow.
About 300 workers have been dismissed for taking part in the strike and in demonstrations, mainly from the aluminium company Alba (Aluminium Bahrain BSC) and the Khalifa Sea Port (driven by APM terminal). Around 40 workers have apparently also been dismissed by Gulf Air. Furthermore, the aluminium company Alba has announced that it will make its rules and procedures even tougher, notably through action in the courts against striking workers.
Abdul Ghaffar Abdul Hussain, President of the trade union at the Bahrain Petroleum Company (BAPCO) has been sacked for having "called on workers to take part in the general strike" and faces legal action in the coming days. The company management has threatened to take legal action against other members of the union as well.
Bahrain University is also the scene of heavy anti-union repression. The Vice President of the Bahraini Teachers' Association and four other members of the union's leadership were arrested on 29 March, and the union's General Secretary the following day. Nineteen students were also arrested, and the payment of salaries of certain lecturers and union members was stopped. Students supported by scholarships who participated in demonstrations have been punished by non-renewal of their scholarships.
With the GFBTU expecting the wave of sackings to flow to other key enterprises, the ITUC denounces the dismissals as "an economic massacre following the deplorable human massacre of the past few weeks".
The punitive policy being imposed on workers and their union representatives is all the more unacceptable given that the GFBTU called on workers to return to work, and received assurances from the authorities that there would be no punishment for those who participated in the industrial action. The GFBTU call for a return to work was done in order to promote a spirit of national dialogue and in the interests of the country's economy.
"These degrading and unjust actions must stop. The GFBTU, which has the absolute support of the international trade union movement, must be allowed to continue to protect its members and their legitimate rights, in line with the fundamental principal of freedom of association," said Burrow. "All forms of anti-union repression must stop immediately - only negotiation can resolve the political and socio-economic problems facing Bahrain".
Since mid-February, when the unprecedented popular protests started, the Bahraini authorities' bloody repression, supported by troops from neighbouring Saudi Arabia, has caused the deaths of at least 20 people, while some 300 have been detained without any information available on where they are being held. Several dozen others have disappeared and 300 have been injured. Some of the most seriously-injured were further brutalised, and even chained to their beds, while medical staff were trying to treat them.
Teachers, doctors, artists, human rights defenders, cyber-activists, members of political parties and others face arrest, and the regime is also trying to stop the publication of the independent Al-Wasat newspaper. Armed thugs had already attacked the newspapers printing shop some weeks ago.
The ITUC also condemns the replacement of workers who took part in strike action by non-strikers. It is especially concerned for migrant workers, who are simply seeking to make an honest living but whose lives are in danger due to the political machinations of the regime.*
ITUC, Mon Apr 4 2011
Why should anyone—especially those who are not union members—care that union membership is at record lows and likely to fall even further? Because if you care about the middle class, you need to care about unions.
Critics of unions claim they are unimportant today or even harmful to the economy, but unions are essential for building a strong middle class. And rebuilding the middle class after decades of decline and stagnation is essential for restoring our economy.
Unions make the middle class strong by ensuring workers have a strong voice in both the market and in our democracy. When unions are strong they are able to ensure that workers are paid fair wages, receive the training they need to advance to the middle class, and are considered in corporate decision-making processes. Unions also promote political participation among all Americans, and help workers secure government policies that support the middle class, such as Social Security, family leave, and the minimum wage.
But as unions became weaker over the past four decades, they are less and less able to perform these functions—and the middle class withered. The percentage of workers in unions steadily declined largely because the legal and political environment prevents private-sector workers from freely exercising their right to join or not to join a union. Membership in private-sector unions stands at less than 7 percent today, from around 30 percent in the late 1960s. Public-sector unionization remained stable for decades—it was 37 percent in 1979 and is 36 percent today—but is now under significant threat from conservative political opposition and could start declining as well. All told, less than 12 percent of the total workforce is unionized, and this percentage is likely to continue falling.
Without the counterbalance of workers united together in unions, the middle class withers because the economy and politics tend to be dominated by the rich and powerful, which in turn leads to an even greater flow of money in our economy to the top of income scale. As can be seen in Figure 1, the percentage of unionized workers tracks very closely with the share of the nation’s income going to the middle class—those in the middle three-fifths of income earners.
In recent years, the middle class accounted for the smallest share of the nation’s income ever since the end of World War II, when this data was first collected. The middle three income quintiles, representing 60 percent of all Americans, received only 46 percent of the nation’s income in 2009, the most recent year data is available, down from highs of around 53 percent in 1969.
The middle class weakened over the past several decades because the rich secured the lion’s share of the economy’s gains. The share of pretax income earned by the richest 1 percent of Americans more than doubled between 1974 and 2007, climbing to 18 percent from 8 percent. And for the richest of the rich—the top 0.1 percent—the gains have been even more astronomical—quadrupling over this period, rising to 12.3 percent of all income from 2.7 percent.
In contrast, incomes for most Americans have been nearly flat over this same time period, and median income after accounting for inflation actually fell for working-age households during the supposedly good economy in the recovery between 2001 and 2007. The importance of unions to the middle class is not just a historical phenomenon, but is relevant to our lives today. To be sure, not everything unions do benefits the broad middle class, but unions are critical to defending the middle class, and their resurgence is key to rebuilding the middle class.
Indeed, it is hard to imagine a middle-class society without a strong union movement.
Across the globe, the countries with the strongest middle classes all have strong union movements. And in America today, states with higher concentrations of union members have a much stronger middle class. The 10 states with the lowest percentage of workers in unions all have a relatively weak middle class, with the share of total state income going to households in the middle three-fifths of income earners in these states below the average for all states.
Our analysis, more fully described in the body and appendix of this report, indicates that each percentage point increase in union membership puts about $153 more per year into the pockets of the middle class—meaning that if unionization rates increased by 10 percentage points (about the level they were in 1980)—then the typical middle class household would earn $1,532 more this year. This figure indicates how much better off all members of the middle class would be—not just those who are union members— if unions regained some strength. And these gains would continue year after year. To put these results in context, our analysis indicates that increasing union membership is as important to rebuilding the middle class as boosting college graduation rates, results that while shocking to some, are consistent with previous research.
In our democracy, when workers are joined together in unions they are able to more forcefully and effectively speak for their interests. Unions give workers a greater voice not only by promoting political participation among all Americans—ensuring that more of the middle class vote and get involved in politics—but also by being an advocate on behalf of the middle class in the daily, inner-workings of government and politics.
This provides a check on other powerful political interests, such as corporations and the very wealthy, and ensures that our system of government has the balance of interests that James Madison, a chief framer of our constitution, thought necessary to properly function. This counterbalancing role is essential for democracy to function properly and respond to the interests of all Americans.
In the workplace, workers who join together in unions are able to negotiate on more equal footing with their employers, providing a check on the inherently unequal relationship between employer and employee. As George Shultz, secretary of labor during the Nixon administration and secretary of state during the Reagan administration argued in support of trade unions, in “a healthy workplace, it is very important that there be some system of checks and balances."
Indeed, the ability of workers united together to provide a check on corporate power was the very reason Congress guaranteed private-sector workers the right to join a union, writing in the findings section of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935:
The inequality of bargaining power between employees who do not possess full freedom of association or actual liberty of contract and employers who are organized in the corporate or other forms of ownership association substantially burdens and affects the flow of commerce, and tends to aggravate recurrent business depressions, by depressing wage rates and the purchasing power of wage earners in industry and by preventing the stabilization of competitive wage rates and working conditions within and between industries.
And government employers, like corporations, sometimes need to be reminded by organized workers to treat their employees fairly. That’s why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. traveled to Memphis in 1968 to help city sanitation workers gain recognition for their union as they faced low pay, terrible working conditions, and racist supervisors. Even the conservative icon Ronald Reagan recognized that publicsector workers should be able to join unions and collectively bargain. Reagan signed a bill to grant municipal and county employees the right to do so when he was governor of California.
Critically, the benefits of workers having a voice in the economy and in democracy spill over to all of society. In these ways, unions make the middle class. The challenge of rebuilding the middle class will take a long time, but would be impossible without a clear understanding of what makes the middle class strong. This paper will explore in detail why we need to do this and how we need to go about it. To rebuild America’s middle class, we need to rebuild the labor movement. It’s that simple—and that challenging.
Forty-three years ago my father, Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated while he was in Memphis, Tenn., supporting a strike of municipal sanitation workers. It was, in his eyes, more than a quest for a few more dollars in a paycheck. He saw the strike as part of the great struggle of his time-a struggle for democracy, for truth, for justice and for human dignity.
These are the same basic reasons that my father would be joining with millions of other Americans today in supporting public employees in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and other states, where collective bargaining is now under attack.
Martin Luther King Jr. would be marching for democracy: During the 2010 election campaigns in Wisconsin, the Republican candidate for governor did not honestly present his plan to effectively eliminate collective bargaining; he waited until after the election. As a result, the voters never had the chance to examine the plan in detail or to hear an open debate on the issue. When they entered the voting booth, the citizens could not know what they were voting for. When voters are deceived about the actual policies a candidate plans to enact, democracy is undermined just as surely as if they are physically prevented from casting their ballot.
The abuse of democracy was compounded when newly elected Gov. Scott Walker introduced massive corporate tax reductions that vastly increased the state deficit and then presented the increased deficits as the "emergency" which justified measures to permanently eviscerate unions. A candidate can openly advocate that corporations should not pay taxes or that unions should be abolished in all but name as a matter of basic social policy, but he cannot truthfully present the second measure as being caused by an emergency beyond his control when it is largely a direct result of his actions.
Martin Luther King Jr. would be marching for truth: The most famous public employee in Wisconsin today is a bus driver who earned $160,000, an example presented as the "smoking gun" proof of overgenerous union contracts. Yet the actual starting salary for bus drivers in Madison is $17 per hour and after 36 years, this driver was making $26 hourly. His "high" pay was the result of more than 2,000 hours of overtime on nights and weekends at time and a half. His straight-time salary was not even $50,000 a year.
To present this atypical case as proof of exorbitant union pay recalls memories of false stereotypes, such as the "welfare queens driving Cadillacs" of previous decades, a reprehensible distortion designed to whip up animosity toward both African Americans and social programs. The example of the $160,000 bus driver is a very similar distortion, though targeted more to build resentment against public employees and government spending.
Martin Luther King Jr. would be marching for justice: In the debate over the Bush tax cuts last fall, conservatives vehemently argued that it was grossly unfair to impose 1990's era tax rates on people with incomes above $200,000 because such people were not really affluent. Yet today, bus drivers who make $50,000 and teachers who make even less are vilified as social parasites who are outrageously overpaid. Wall Street traders are said to be morally entitled to large six-figure bonuses because of the sanctity of their contracts, but the contracts of teachers and bus drivers are described as empty pieces of paper that should be voided at will. Behind this cynical double standard lies the condescending contempt of a privileged elite toward people who work hard and punch time clocks.
Martin Luther King Jr. would be marching for dignity: The fundamental purpose of unions has always been job security and protection from arbitrary firing, not simply larger paychecks. Before unions, workers would "shape up" before factory gates and beg to be chosen for a days' labor.
In the past some state governments that were unable to offer wage increases in negotiations offered in their place long-term fringe benefits that later proved fiscally unsustainable. In recent years, municipal unions have again and again negotiated "give-backs" through collective bargaining that substantially reduce these benefits but preserve workers' rights to representation and basic human dignity. In Wisconsin, the unions conceded to all of Gov. Scott Walker's financial demands in the earliest days of the conflict, only to find that his covert agenda was not fiscal prudence but their complete evisceration.
On April 4, the anniversary of the assassination of my father, I'll be joining the with thousands of Americans of all races in the nationwide "We Are One" demonstrations supporting America's public employees, trade unions and working people in a common quest for jobs, justice and decency for all citizens. In this endeavor, we seek the support of all Americans of good will.
AFL-CIO Now Blog, Mon Apr 4 2011
Byline: Martin Luther King III
The rally organized by some major labor unions from three different states in North America, including the Washington State Labor Council, Oregon AFL-CIO and the BC Federation of Labor was held on Saturday at the Peace Arch border crossing in British Columbia, a Press TV correspondent in Vancouver reported.
Participants of the "International Solidarity" rally took issue with the mounting assault on labor unions in the US states of Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker sparked outrage recently by pressing ahead with his anti-union law that eliminates collective bargaining rights of over 200,000 workers.
Republicans in 37 US states are pushing to limit the bargaining rights of public workers as well as the ability of unions to collect dues.
Walker, who has been beset by mounting criticism over his plans to lay off thousands of public servants, has claimed that the budget bill would slash Wisconsin's structural deficit by 90 percent to $250 million.
During the rally, many Canadian protesters conjured up their economic hardships in British Columbia roughly six years ago, when Bill 29, a provincial bill, which allowed for the contracting out of health services, could have resulted in over 9,000 layoffs.
Hunted by the ghosts of the past, many Canadians are worried over the recent union-busting throughout the United States, and complain that they do not want the flu to spread further north.
"The attention on unions and what they do is at the highest level, probably in two or three decades. Folks understand what unions do and how important they are as a check to a corporate agenda," said Tom Chamberlain, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO.
Labor unions say such union busting measures are not needed to rein in the budget deficits, and the working class should not be punished for the recession while banks and other huge corporations get bailed out.
They feel it is especially unfair at this time as North Americans are facing deregulation and free-trade agreements that consistently transfer their jobs to cheaper labor zones.
Press TV, Sun Apr 3 2011