By Dennis R. Pierce
BLET National President
As I have often said, one of the primary objectives of my Administration is to promote increased involvement by BLET officers and members alike. To put it bluntly, trade unionism is not a spectator sport; it is a participation sport where we can ill afford to sit back and let others decide our future. And moving from talk into action was never more urgent than it is today.
On February 22, 2011, First Vice President Lee Pruitt, Vice President and National Legislative Representative John Tolman and I travelled from our headquarters in Cleveland to Columbus, Ohio to march in a rally with other working men and women who are fighting the injustice being imposed upon public sector employees in Ohio. I returned to Columbus a week later on March 1, 2011, along with General President Hoffa and thousands of working men and women to again march against the injustice of Ohio Senate Bill 5.
We were joined at both marches by Ohio State Legislative Board Chairman Tim Hanely, BLET member and State Senator Bob Hagan, as well as other BLET members from all across the state. We were part of a group of several hundred Teamster members who came to have their voices heard in support of all working men and women.
While this was happening in Ohio, BLET members were also joining marches and rallies in Wisconsin, Kansas, California, Arizona, Iowa and many other states. I offer my personal thanks to all who are getting involved in their state. If there was ever a time to get involved, it is now and here is why.
In recent weeks, the rights of working men and women have come under attack all across our great country. Politicians in several states are waging war on the rights of public sector employees to collectively bargain. They use budget woes to justify this “war on the worker,” when we all know that the working middle class men and women of America did not cause the financial problems that plague our country. As time goes on, many seem to forget that it was Wall Street’s financial collapse, facilitated by little or no government oversight and risky business ventures, that pushed this country headlong into the recession that still plagues us, and has caused so many government pensions funds be become seriously underfunded.
State and Local budgets are all reeling, but not because of working men and women. The exact opposite is true, there are not enough working men and women making a decent living wage to fund the services that Federal, State and Local governments are expected to provide. Cutting the wages and benefits of taxpaying working men and women is not a long term solution to any State’s budget woes because these cuts will simply reduce tax revenues even further. The politicians pushing this war on the workers know this and it is becoming clear that their motives are much grander than just balancing a budget. Their real agenda is to once and for all break the back of the labor movement in this country, and that is not an agenda that will benefit any working class American.
Although Organized Labor is leading the fight against this war on the workers, all working class Americans, unionized or non-unionized, should be very concerned. Contrary to what some of the corporate-owned media would have you believe, this is not a battle between non-union working Americans and unionized working Americans. Unions are not the enemy or the problem. The truth is that unions are the only thing blocking corporate interests from taking this country back to the days of sweatshops and the 80 hour work week.
The long term goal of Wall Street, big business, and their agents in the political class is very simple; when the workers make less, the corporations make more. That is why corporate America is bankrolling the politicians that are waging the war on workers, but the public sector is just one battle in this war. This war on workers will not stop with the public sector employees in Ohio, Wisconsin or Indiana. It will not stop until all labor organizations are dismantled and the working class of this country has no one to speak for it.
Now is the time to get involved in your union. Now is the time to get involved in the local politics of your city, county and state government.
Now is the time to march. Now is the time to attend a rally and support our fellow working class citizens. That’s the message I will be sharing everywhere that I go.
In fact, as part of my plan to attend BLET Local Division meetings every month, I attended my first 2011 Local Division meeting with the members of our first Division in Detroit on March 2 and shared this message with them. Division 1 represents engineers and trainmen who work for Norfolk Southern and Conrail Shared Assets, and the fellowship and exchange of ideas that we had can only help me as your National President. This week, I will be attending regular Division meetings with Division 6 (Union Pacific) in Boone, Iowa and Division 687 (BNSF) in Sioux City, Iowa. The week after I will be attending Division 3’s regular meeting (CSX) in Cleveland, Ohio.
Join me by attending your union meeting and by attending a rally to fight the war on the workers. Our strength is in our numbers, we must all be involved if we are to be successful.