February 24, 2011

Why Wisconsin matters in New York, and throughout organized labor

Source: NYSUT Communications
Caption: NYSUT raises its flag at the capitol in Wisconsin.

Rallies for Workers' Rights

Read the full story about the Albany rally as well as photos on  NYSUT Flickr and  Facebook pages.

One more rally: Rochester: There is a rally at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 2 at City Hall in downtown Rochester.

Why Wisconsin matters in New York, and throughout organized labor

Unionists from across the nation have come out in force to support our colleagues in Wisconsin, as well as those in Idaho, Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio and Tennessee. Other states are facing unprecedented threats as well. And New York state is not exempt.

Make no mistake about it: Unions in the Empire State are facing many of the same challenges that we're seeing elsewhere. They may not be as blatant. Yet. Nor as public. But the assault on workers' rights in New York is a reality.

After all, there are some in Albany who want to abolish the Triborough Amendment, end seniority rights and dramatically change the pension law. Meanwhile, tenure is always the right's favorite whipping boy. These are direct attacks on collective bargaining and on the dignity of all workers.

So, yes, what happens in Wisconsin does matter in New York. It matters to all working men and women.

Meanwhile, back in Madison, Gov. Walker and his supporters have tried to convince the public this is about a budget deficit. But it's not. What's happening in Wisconsin is about public-sector employees retaining a voice in their profession and Wisconsin's future. The proposed legislation strips away worker rights and destroys the collaborative partnerships that have been established between labor and management in Wisconsin. It's not about pay and benefits, pensions and health care.

What is happening right now in Wisconsin is historic. Tens of thousands of citizens - unprecedented numbers - are gathering and speaking out to show their support for the state's public servants. They want to voice support for the third grade teacher who stays late to help a student with math; for the nurses who work every day to care for patients; for the firefighters who keep citizens safe; and for the snow plow drivers who plow streets through the night so their neighbors can get to work in the morning. These public workers are on the front-lines everyday and they should have a say in their profession.

The people of Wisconsin are asking the governor and legislature to hear them out and to work with them to find bipartisan solutions that will address Wisconsin's challenges. Silencing the voices of public-sector employees by busting up their unions is not a going to help Wisconsin move forward and it will only divide the people of that state.

Here are some key points to remember:

Union workers did not cause Wisconsin's fiscal problems. Ezra Klein, Washington Post, 2/18/11: "Whatever fiscal problems Wisconsin is -- or is not -- facing at the moment, they're not caused by labor unions. That's also true for New Jersey, for Ohio and for the other states... Blame the banks. Blame global capital flows. Blame lax regulation of Wall Street. Blame homebuyers, or home sellers. But don't blame the unions. Not for this recession."

Unions didn't bankrupt the state. The recession brought on by Wall Street recklessness and CEO greed caused our financial problems. Wisconsin's Gov. Walker and the politicians in Wisconsin are playing the same old game, attacking firefighters, nurses, teachers and other public employees.

Public workers compensation in Wisconsin is actually less than the private sector. In EPI's study, "Wisconsin public versus private employee costs -Why compare apples to oranges?": In an apples-to-apples comparison, public-sector workers in Wisconsin actually make 4.8 percent less in total compensation.

The facts actually show that public workers actually make less in total compensation than their private-sector counterparts. But isn't the real question here why our elected leaders are playing partisan politics and scapegoating teachers, the guys who plow our roads in snowstorms, nurses and first responders instead of working together to create jobs.

Teachers and the Democratic senators in Wisconsin are speaking up for basic rights -- the right to be in a union -- that give voice to working people. We are standing up and speaking out for what we believe. That is the cornerstone of democracy, and we should not shy away from speaking about our values.

Attacking firefighters, nurses, teachers and other public employees is divisive and unfair. But people all over the country are standing up and speaking out against these attacks, and Madison has been flooded with tens of thousands of people who care about the work they do and the people they serve. In Wisconsin and in a lot of other states, it's time for bipartisanship and for the politicians for start working together to create jobs.

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