January 2017 Issue - Labor Issues
December 19, 2016

Magee: Our values, principles will prevail

Author: Karen E. Magee, President
Source: NYSUT United
NYSUT President Karen Magee
Caption:

Everything changed for us on Election Day.

Or did it?

Clearly, the results of November's presidential election were not what many of us had hoped for or expected. And there's been a lot of hand-wringing, finger-pointing and second-guessing since.

For those who do what we do — unionists, educators, health care professionals — what we see coming out of Trump Tower in New York City and the Capitol in Washington, D.C., is producing a good amount of angst. The president-elect has nominated Rep. Tom Price of Georgia as secretary of health and human services. Price is an aggressive foe of the Affordable Care Act; the future of Medicare also appears to be in his sights.

He has nominated fast-food billionaire Andrew Puzder as labor secretary. Puzder is an opponent of a federal minimum wage increase and publicly supports replacing people with robots in the workforce.

Meanwhile, and inexplicably, Betsy DeVos has been nominated to be the next secretary of education. DeVos is a wealthy anti-public education activist from Michigan. That wealth appears to be her only qualification to head such an important and influential federal agency. See related story.

Make no mistake: DeVos's policies are a danger to public education, from pre-K through higher ed. DeVos has never met a privatization scheme she didn't like. She has made a career of supporting attempts to dismantle Michigan's public school system. Her efforts have led to a billion-dollar charter school industry in her state; those schools have been found to be rife with cronyism and financial impropriety.

The selection of DeVos, Price, Puzder and some others in the incoming Cabinet prompted one creative type to develop a Facebook meme that suggests the next director of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency might be the notorious drug lord, "El Chapo." I would laugh if it didn't ring a bit too true.

Things aren't much better over at the Capitol, where our good friend, Sen. Chuck Schumer, will have his work cut out for him fending off right-wing efforts to undermine the progress we've made in education, health care and workers' rights. In fact, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), the incoming chair of the House panel that oversees labor issues, the Committee on Education and the Workforce, recently said organized labor "has sort of lost its reason for being."
Really?

Actually, just the opposite is true. There are all sorts of reasons why organized labor is needed as much now as ever.

Organized labor is the defender of the middle class.

Organized labor is the truth-teller about the dangers of a state constitutional convention, which could upend so much of what we have achieved.

Organized labor is the advocate for the resources our professions require to move into the future.

Organized labor is the protector of programs and services that help seniors and struggling families.

Organized labor is the voice that calls out inequality and unfairness.

Organized labor is the support for underrepresented groups, the disenfranchised and those in need.

Organized labor is the ally of students, parents and working people.

Organized labor is what gives me hope and optimism that, no matter what comes our way when the new year begins, our principles and values will prevail.

Happy New Year.