President’s Message – April 2011
I believe that the right for workers to bargain collectively over wages, benefits and working conditions helps keep our workplaces and our country democratic. It's a right Americans have struggled and even died for. It's why we joined UNAC/UHCP. It's how we can provide patients the best possible care and also support our families. The right to bargain is under direct attack in Wisconsin—birthplace of AFSCME, our parent union.
See if this adds up. Wisconsin's Governor Walker says he must strip public workers of bargaining rights to fix the budget deficit. But Wisconsin's public workers are willing to bargain contributions to health insurance and increased pension contributions. And Walker's pushing tax cuts that make the deficit worse. But look closer: Republican Walker's bill removed bargaining rights only from workers who traditionally supported Democrats. It left bargaining rights intact for public safety unions, like police and firefighters, who supported Walker in the last election.
But Walker can't fool the public safety unions. This attack isn't about political parties. It's the knife's edge of a nationwide campaign to gut the Labor Movement. That's why police refused Walker's order to clear protestors from the capitol; and firefighters in full uniform stood with their union brothers and sisters. Unions are the watchdogs that protect all American workers. They brought us the eight hour workday, overtime, safety regulations, healthcare and pensions. How long do you think union-won benefits will last if unions are destroyed?
Private sector unions have lost membership. So private sector workers have lost benefits. Now anti-union forces try to stir jealousy against public workers who still have benefits. If we let them destroy public sector unions, they'll come back and finish the job on us. It's ironic, isn't it, that with people all over the Middle East taking to the streets and public squares to win basic rights, we have to go back into our own streets and public spaces to protect rights we won long ago, that many Americans now take for granted? Join me and our fellow UNAC/UHCP members and staff in defending our basic right to a collective voice by supporting our union brothers and sisters in Wisconsin at this critical, historic moment.