Choosing courage, not fear
After reading and seeing all the newscasts about the movements for freedom in Egypt, Bahrain and Libya, I can't help but admire the courage of ordinary citizens who have set aside their fears of intimidation, coercion and even death to bring about real change in their lives. No longer will these people allow themselves to live under the threat of fear.
In our country, many citizens are working under a cloud of fear — fear of losing one's job, one's house, one's income, one's health insurance, one's pension. We have governors, legislatures and newscasters filling us with fear of the economy and fear of loss of work.
Our American middle class was built on the backs of workers who organized, and demanded a voice in the workplace and safe working conditions. Collective bargaining gives the employer and the employee the opportunity to communicate with each other on a level playing field. Any talk to take away contract agreements and collective bargaining rights is an act of depreciation and disrespect to all workers, past and present. All workers should organize themselves to ensure fundamental rights of their employment.
When looking at the world news, we see the working populace no longer allowing itself to be a pawn in the hands of tyranny and despotism. These workers have overcome their fear with the force of knowledge and a fierce desire to make positive changes in their lives.
But what of us and our fears? Will we be able to muster up the courage to say no to those who claim to know what is best for us, the worker? The path we take will not only affect us, but the future for our children and their prospects for dignity and respect in the workplace.
Cynthia Graham, retiree | Watertown Education Association
Speak up for your retirement
Newsday calls Wisconsin a "vivid illustration of just how bad things can get." The governor signed legislation that severely curtails collective bargaining — the very essence and foundation of our retirement and health benefits.
Collective bargaining originated in 1891; it is a process of voluntary negotiation between employers and trade unions aimed at reaching agreements that regulate working conditions. Among these are wages, working hours, training, health and safety, overtime, grievance mechanisms and rights to participate in workplace or company affairs. This did not happen overnight, yet the idea of eliminating such needed bargaining is now upon us.
Wisconsin is trying to destroy unions and the collective bargaining process, both of which have earned us the retirement and health benefits we currently receive. This must stop. As retirees, our pensions and health benefits may be compromised.
If every one of the more than 150,000 NYSUT retirees wrote a letter or email to our governor, legislators, U.S. Senators and Congress members pledging our continued support of collective bargaining, our voices would be heard loud and clear. Your voice is needed now before your retirement and health benefits are compromised.
You earned your retirement! Now it is your time to once again let the powers that be know you are not willing to have it compromised. You can and will make a difference, but only if you unite. One of my favorite quotes is, "individually you are a drop of water, but together you are an ocean." Write now!
Salvatore Lentini, Sr. | Adjunct at StonyBrook University