I’m Standing with the Union

Richard Trumka, NYC, 1/28/10

Amid shouts  of “Shame” from outraged protesters jamming in and around the state house in Madison, WI, yesterday, the assembly passed a bill undoing 50 years of union rights.

And although it’s an immediate policy disaster, politically it’s a gift to the Democrats, energizing the previously hibernating  base (in Wisconsin and elsewhere), which slept through the 2010 elections.

As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said recently, only partially in jest,  “Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is our mobilizer of the year.”

More protests are planned in Madison for the weekend and the idea of recall elections–state senators and the governor–is gaining momentum.  Proposed and approved union-busting legislation in other midwestern states has also produced large and persistent protests in cities including Lansing, Boise and Indianapolis.

I used to be a proud member of the United Auto Workers–really (photographers’ local– not exactly) when The Village Voice was represented by District 65.  And when I was a child, my pro-union mother, Doris Holland, insisted, “Never cross a picket line.”  And when she took me with her to vote, “Never pull down a lever for a Republican–or your hand will atrophy.”

The importance of voting–and voting for progressives–was recently stressed by International President of the United Steel Workers, Leo Gerard,  “At this point in the economic development of America, voting is equivalent to standing shoulder to shoulder with your fellow workers.”

Leo Gerard, NYC, 1/8/09

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