Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Secretary-Treasurer Tony Speelman's Column- December 2010

Anger, frustration, disappointment, a few words which gauge the political temperature in our country right now. Who could disagree? There should be anger when we hear statistics like, one in seven Americans are living under the government’s poverty line for a family of four ($21,954 annually). Or when 44 million working-age Americans along with over 20 percent of the country’s children are ‘poor’. Or what about the constant growing statistic of economic disparity between the rich and poor? How thirty years ago, the richest 1 percent of Americans received 9 percent of total national income. By 2007, they had 23 percent. Last year, the top 20 percent of wealth-holders owned 84 percent of America's wealth. These statistics are alarming enough to make any hard working American angry. But anger shouldn’t be and isn’t an excuse for abandoning our rationale.

These problems have been growing for the last 31-years according to Economist Paul Krugman, who has titled the era as the Great Divergence. Between 1929 and 1973, U.S. incomes became MORE equal, while since 1980 for the wealth-holding gap between the rich and poor has grown every year. It’s relevant here in New York in regards to the recent race for Governor between Carl Paladino and Andrew Cuomo. Regardless of who you may have voted for, Mr. Paladino ran a campaign
that was fueled by the anger and frustration of millions of New Yorkers. His campaign slogan was “I’m Mad Too, Carl!” Honestly though, who isn’t angry? Sure, we’re angry, and we love when a politician voices grievances and feelings that we share, but how long can a campaign fueled by anger run? We’d all like to have a better economic standing, but a strategy and platform of anger is not a logical or any type of solution at all. We need someone who not only hears our cries of frustration, but someone who has a solution. Just telling people you’re angry and frustrated along with promoting more tax-breaks for the rich at the expense of the working class won’t solve anything. Anger, frustration and disappointment, are not
buzzwords for a resume applying to run the State of New York.We are all too familiar with the taste of anger and frustration, what we need is a strategy of new ideas that propel the working class to a new generation of prosperity.

How is this relevant to us as Union members? We are part of the solution. We’re part of a much bigger picture. Our role and importance should never be undervalued, underestimated or overlooked. We are the working men and women who run this country. Can anger blind your solidarity? Recently and looking back at Election Day results, the answer could be yes. The problem sometimes is that we all take our country’s labor history for granted. The pre-historic and obsolete branding that unions receive from mainstream media outlets could not be anything further from the truth. The purpose unions serve, and have served in this country is far greater than words in this column can describe. In an economy as difficult as the one we’re all living in today, it seems unions should be relevant and important as they have ever been. With staggering unemployment rates, lack of job security, growing wage disparities between rich and poor, it almost seems crazy not to be a union member. Turning to anger is and quick and easy knee-jerk reaction. One political analyst may have put it best when describing the recent anger movement in the political world,

“The tea party should be angry that, during both Republican and Democratic administrations, American companies have closed thousands of manufacturing plants and shipped millions of jobs overseas. Tea partiers are angry — or jealous — that public employee unions exist and that they achieve good wages and benefits for their members…”

There are people in the media that want to divide us and break the links in our chain of solidarity. People who want to dismiss the very notion that it was Unions who helped build this country, and that Unions can and will once again re-build this country! How can we do this? By sticking together in tough times!

We are the solution. We are not “out-dated”. All of us are tied together as brothers and sisters. We need to continually remind ourselves that we are all working together.

No matter which department in the supermarket you work in or within another union, we are family. We need to remind ourselves that people want to be in a union in this country. They want to enjoy the luxuries we have like a voice on the job, guaranteed breaks, guaranteed raises, job security, vacations, health insurance, a pension, and representation. We are proud to be union. No matter where you stand politically, Republican, Democrat, Independent, Tea Party, any party, we must not allow our emotions to get the best of us and bring them to the polls. Holding politicians accountable for policies that impact wealth distribution, and policies that enhance our lives as union members is not only the rationale thing we can all do, it’s our duty as members of the Labor Movement. That means voting with your head, not your emotions.

I cannot say it enough, how proud I am to be your Secretary-Treasurer. I look forward to seeing you all at the new union office. As always, my door will be and is always open to you to talk business or for whatever it may be. You may also call me whenever you’d like at 1-800-522-0456. I urge you to stay in contact with your union. Come to your General Membership meetings every 3-months (our next General Membership meeting is December 8th). Sign up for email alerts on the union website Communicate with your union representative, and never let anger be your solution to your frustrations. I hope to see you on December 8th.
Have a happy and healthy holiday!

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