In some ways our political system is like the natural gas that conveniently and inexpensively cooks our food and warms our homes. When the rights and privileges it bestows are exercised responsibly, it blesses us, but when exploited maliciously or recklessly it can curse us with tragic consequences.
Under the protection of our cherished right of free speech, certain personalities have unleashed vitriol so emotionally charged that the mindset of many who listen to it and read it is like an unventilated room filled with natural gas. This reckless commentary, like a gas jet left on inadvertently in an unventilated room, has created an extremely dangerous political climate. It doesn’t matter if the tragic consequences it provokes are intentional or by chance.
It behooves us to proceed cautiously in exercising our political freedom in these extremely stressful times. Regardless of how an unventilated room filled up with natural gas, utter disaster is close at hand, whether from a torch thrown by the cruelest arsonist or from a spark from electrostatic charge on the clothing of the most innocent person.
Over the last month the labor movement has come under attack. While attempts are being made to separate public and private unions, any attack on public unions is an attack on all our member unions and the labor movement in general.
The wage earners our unions represent are from working families who are trying to earn a decent living. We understand the economic crisis our country has gone through. We’re willing to share in any necessary sacrifice. But, what happened in Wisconsin wasn’t about shared sacrifice. It was about politics, and weakening unions by taking away a basic right those unions had for 50 years, the right of negotiation through collective bargaining.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he needed to eliminate collective bargaining for benefits because state and municipal budgets were out of control. But when Wisconsin unions agreed their members would pay more toward their benefits, that wasn’t enough. Finally, Republicans in the Legislature removed the collective bargaining restrictions from the financial bill altogether to assure passage. All this after Gov. Walker began with a state budget so out of control that he gave new tax cuts to corporations and wealthy individuals.
Now at least 17 other states are considering new restrictions, or the elimination of existing collective bargaining provisions in public union contracts. We find this unacceptable. We ask you to support the labor movement by supporting your local unions. Support the right of collective bargaining for both public and private unions.
Massachusetts Labor Council