By James DeMartino, President Local 177
Recently, as most of you know, there has been an assault on the working class people in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana.
These states are battling to keep their Collective Bargaining Rights which were fought for, and won over a century ago, thanks to the sacrifices of those men and women who had horrific working conditions and wages below poverty level. Teamsters everywhere owe their success and gratitude to these Brothers and Sisters. These men and women realized that if they stood together as one, the rich would have no choice but to come to the bargaining table and bargain in good faith.
Big Business has been rewarded with huge tax cuts and bail outs,while some corporations pay no taxes at all, despite creating many of our economic problems. But the average worker has been given the bill and the blame.
For example, in his fight against teachers and other public employee unions, Gov. Christie has told teachers that lay-offs and larger classrooms are their fault. Christie goes as far as to lay blame on our State's fiscal crisis solely on the behavior of Union leaders he called "Thugs", even though every Union Contract with the state was negotiated by both parties in good faith, and the State accepted and agreed to each contract.
The Govenor has previously claimed that teachers have used students like "drug mules". Such insults and disrespect should be kept in mind when the same Govenor Chrisite simultaneously expresses a "love" for Collective Bargaining. Whether his true desire is to get on the road to a balanced budget for the state or to a new address for himself in Washington, DC, Union bashing is clearly the vehicle he's using to get there.
In either case, the demonizing of Unions is both unproductive and dangerous for all workers and all Unions, public or private. If Gov. Christie can somehow convince New Jersey that a 3rd grade teacher is the biggest threat to the state, his attempts to steam roll all workers and residents of New Jersey will continue. The definition of Collective Bargaining marks agreements as it's end goal, and that agreement is predicated on good-faith. The posture and course of Gov. Christie's efforts reflect neither.
Christie has claimed that the Unions are trying to break the Middle Class. The Unions helped establish and still are the Middle Class. In fact, historically, the rise and decline of the middle class have mirrored the rise and decline of Unionization. Christie knows this. The picture he paints is not reality, but one that Big Business and Republican donors want painted. Despite the break from reality, the persistence of the message and its tie to finding the next "big thing" to run for President, creates a captivated audience.
In other words, his plan is working. It's the oldest play in the book. Divide and conquer.Invent an enemy to distract you from the real threat. While the State and the Nation are presented with real problems and challenges, there is an effort to blame the people most affected by the problems. And so the strategy rolls on: pit friend and neighbor against each other. Worker against worker. Public against Private. Those words and efforts by the Govenor sound less like a leader interested in agreement and progress, and more like a dictator bent on division and chaos.
We must look for the silver lining in these tough tmes and, needless to say, they have poked the bear, 1.4 million members strong, called the Teamsters!
This has to be a wake-up call to all Unions and their families. Now is the time for all Unions to come together as one and recall their politicians. As you know, the Union has consisitently asked that all of our members participate in D.R.I.V.E. (Democratic, Republican, Independent, Voter, Education). This is to assure that the elected candidates in public office are friendly to the interests of Teamster and Union members.
You have the power to stop this relentless assault on Unions and working families: VOTE THEM OUT!