(Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from the upcoming October 2014 issue of the Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen News.)
By Dennis R. Pierce
BLET National President
For those of you who were in attendance at the BLET’s Third National Convention earlier this month, you know that we talked a lot about this fall’s mid-term elections. Whether it was from our guest speakers like Teamster General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall, or from a video message like the one from Senator Elizabeth Warren, the common thread that all of our speakers shared was the importance of this year’s election, both at the Federal level and at the State level.
In the U.S. Senate, there are 36 seats to be decided, and those who support an anti-worker, anti-union and therefore anti-middle class agenda are working hard to take control. At the same time, all 435 seats are up for re-election in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the same group is working hard to increase their existing majority. There is a reason for this push in the House and the Senate, and that reason does not benefit you as working class Americans.
Quite to the contrary, the agenda being pushed by the so-called conservatives trying to increase their power in Washington, D.C., is one that is bought and paid for by corporate America. Many of you do not know who the Koch brothers are, but they are billionaires who have long advocated ending Social Security and Medicare. By the end of the year, they will have spent millions trying to persuade voters, including good union men and women, to vote for their issues.
They will convince some of you to support their agenda, even though their cause includes nothing good for working class Americans. They oppose any increase to the minimum wage, even though our nation’s workers are some of the most productive in the world and their wages lag behind the bulk of the industrialized world. If their bought and paid for politicians take full control, they would end all hope of a secure retirement for millions of working class Americans by ending Social Security — and our Railroad Retirement system would not be safe either.
You only have to study the voting records of the politicians that these billionaires have already bought, to know what being owned by billionaires like the Koch brothers, the Walton family or Sheldon Adelson requires. Although said in jest by a well-known comedian, it was speculated during the recession that due to the downturn in the economy, the Koch brothers actually had to lay off several congressmen. In all truth though, it is imperative that you look beyond the advertisements that corporate America and its supporters will put on your television this year. You must instead study the voting records of all politicians that seek your vote, and if you truly want a strong working middle class in this country, you must not support those whose true agenda is just the opposite.
At our Third National Convention, delegates were honored to hear from U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who offered his unique insight into the importance of the upcoming elections:
“And while the rich get richer, the billionaire class, as a result of the disastrous ‘Citizens United’ Supreme Court decision, is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into political campaigns to make sure that elected officials in Washington will keep making sure the folks on top get an even greater share of the pie,” Sanders said. “If ever there was a time for a political revolution, one that engages millions of Americans in the political process, and significantly increases voter participation, now is that time. We need to educate, organize and bring to the polls millions of workers and young people who otherwise might not vote. We need to make clear to every American what the Koch brothers’ agenda is and what Republican control of Congress will mean for the working families of this country, and we need to bring forth a strong progressive agenda that reverses the decline of the middle class.”
Perhaps the most disappointing misrepresentation in all of this year’s politics is what I call the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” politician. I am talking about those politicians who are bought and paid for by corporate America, but try to convince you that they actually support you or a social issue important to you. Having been raised in a devoutly religious home, I am especially offended by those corporate owned politicians who claim to stand on “high ground” religiously.
There is no greater hypocrisy than to claim to support a religious philosophy, while at the same time supporting an economic philosophy that allows corporations to crush the working class of this great nation. It has been said that truly being religious requires a conscience, but that is the one thing that no corporation owns. Quite the opposite, corporations serve only one purpose, that being to make money for those who own and operate them. What that does not include in many cases is paying a living wage, providing benefits or allowing employees to have the time off that they need to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The almighty dollar — and not the Almighty — is king in corporate America.
I will leave you with this quote from Pope Francis, who eloquently explains the economic inequalities facing Americans today. I ask you to keep this in mind when you vote in November:
“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.” — Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel apostolic exhortation, November 2013.