Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Moral Economy Continued: A Message from the AFL-CIO

Richard L. Trumka
Many governors and state legislatures across the country are using the politics of misery and anger to lay the burden of budget problems on working families. Their proposals would destroy our public institutions, deprive our children of quality schooling and care, and crush working people’s rights and living standards, while failing to invest in building a stronger nation and middle class.

>> Urge our nation’s governors and state lawmakers to build a future that lives up to our children’s expectations—not retreat.
>> Watch the speech I gave this morning at the National Press Club.
Dear Ismail,
Here in Washington, we live in an Alice-in-Wonderland political climate. Politicians of both parties tell us we can—and should—do nothing to address our jobs crisis. The new Republican leaders in the House—who campaigned on the promise of jobs—are squandering their first days of legislative business on a vote to take away health care gains from 30 million Americans.

Yet the attacks on working families are even worse in many states. Too many governors are launching attacks on workers
fueled by the enthusiasm and the financial support of people like Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, and Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire publisher behind Fox News.

When I say an attack on workers’ rights, I am not talking about demands for concessions in tough times by employers. I am talking about the campaigns in state after state, funded by shadowy front groups, aimed at depriving all workers—public and private sector—of the basic human right to form strong unions and bargain collectively to lift their lives. These attacks on workers ultimately are attacks on our children—and their ability to have the kind of life we wish for them. Make no mistake: attacking workers is a choice—a choice to tear down our whole country, rather than building us up.

It’s inexcusable that many of our leaders still don’t realize our country rises and falls as one nation, and that a good-wage growth path is essential to our survival. That’s why I gave a speech this morning at the National Press Club that laid out our vision for moving forward.

>> Please watch my speech from this morning about America’s choices and how we can move forward—not backward

>> Then, please sign our petition to federal and state leaders. It says: “I reject the politics of misery and anger. We need to build a future that lives up to our children’s expectations.

After three years, our jobs crisis still is raging. Families are more squeezed than ever. Our poorest communities are totally devastated. And young adults are struggling to find their footing more than at any time in our history since the Great Depression.

Yet many of our newest governors are willing to make things worse. Last Friday in Cincinnati, Ella Hopkins and a group of her co-workers went out on a frigid night to stand in front of City Hall. Ella is a child care worker. She cares for children when parents are at work. At the end of her week, the state of Ohio pays her about $350 after taxes. She stood out in the cold to ask her new governor, John Kasich, to respect her freedom to form a union to improve her life and those of her co-workers. Kasich had said state workers like her are “toast.”

In the same week Gov. Kasich made cracking down on home care and child care workers his first priority, he increased the salaries of his senior staff by more than 30 percent. Outrageous.

In some state capitals, things have gotten so bad we see not just an attack on the middle class, but an attack on economic rationality itself. Govs. Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin both rejected high-speed rail through in their states. They turned their backs on jobs and their own state’s future. They’re betting on misery and anger, rather than hope and progress and common sense.

Newly elected governors and state legislatures need to stop doing the exact opposite of what works. They need to stop destroying our public institutions, stop depriving our children of quality schooling and care, and stop crushing working people’s rights and living standards. Instead, they need to invest in building a strong future and a solid middle class.

Tell our state leaders: “I reject the politics of misery and anger. We need to build a future that lives up to our children’s expectations.

And watch the speech I gave at the National Press Club this morning.

The fact is, we are a nation that still has choices—and we don’t need to settle for stagnation and ever-spiraling inequality. We don’t need to hunker down, dial back our expectations and surrender our children’s hope for a great education, our parents’ right to a comfortable retirement, or our own health and economic security. We don’t need to sacrifice our nation’s aspiration to make things again—or our human right to advance our situation by forming a union if we want one. All these things are within the reach of the great country in which we live. But building a better nation starts at the bottom up—with us and with our state leaders.

Tell our state leaders: “I reject the politics of misery and anger. We need to build a future that lives up to our children’s expectations.

Then, watch my speech from this morning.

Last week in Tucson, President Obama called upon us to build a future that “lives up to our children’s expectations.” We cannot build such a future as isolated individuals—either morally or economically. Working people know we can build that future, but only if we come together and agree to invest in it.

The labor movement hasn’t given up on America—and we don’t expect our leaders to, either.

In solidarity,

Richard L. Trumka
President, AFL-CIO

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