February 22, 2011
By Neal Tepel
TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen, calling the battle over public employee bargaining rights and benefits “Our Pearl Harbor,” has pledged to send a delegation of members from the 37,000-strong TWU Local 100 to the state capitol in Madison to join tens of thousands of union members and supporters camped out to fight newly-elected Governor Steve Walker’s plan to marginalize public employees and eviscerate their unions.
The fight over the proposed legislation, which is being held hostage by Democrats in the State House who are not reporting in order to deny the Governor a quorum has become a flashpoint for liberal and conservative commentators and political observers of all stripes.
Many right-wing commentators are exercised about the “piddling amounts” unionized public sector workers pay for health benefits in Wisconsin (Michelle Malkin) and want to drive their wages down, as well. They seem to neglect the fact that inequality between rich and poor in America is growing. A report in the New York Times (Charles M. Blow, Feb. 19) lists the U.S. as the third most unequal country in the world (behind Hong Kong and Singapore). Unions have a track record of bringing up worker wages, reducing inequality. Recent stats show that the top one percent of Americans in terms of income garnered fully 23% of the nation’s wealth.
Samuelsen’s statement, reprinted in full here, reads as follows: “For this generation of union members, the attack on Wisconsin’s public sector represents our Pearl Harbor. The enemies of labor and democracy in the workplace have been chip, chip, chipping away at America’s unionized working middle class for years. But the attack in Wisconsin is not meant to further erode our rights as workers. It is meant to destroy them. We in the labor movement cannot allow this to happen.
We must rally behind our brothers and sisters in Wisconsin, and we must afford them every resource available to us. Nothing short of total victory is acceptable. The attacks from the right stop there. Local 100 will send a delegation of Local 100 members to Madison in the coming days to demonstrate our resolve to assist them in their hour of need, and to show those who would attempt similar in New York, that TWU Local 100, and New York’s union movement is ready for the fight.”