Friday, April 15, 2011

Executive Vice President Report: Wisconsin Sparks the Labor Movement...

By: Fred Walter, Executive Vice President/Field Director

Today’s middle (working) class continues to shrink each year along with the percent of private sector union workers. Union’s private and public workers are blamed for state fiscal problems and unemployment. The polarizing of public workers in Wisconsin and Ohio confirms the importance Unions have served throughout our countries history. In the 1930’s the National Labor Relations Act guaranteed Unions the right to organize without fear of retribution or firings. 

In 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act was signed into law. During these years the social safety net petitioned for by labor, including unemployment insurance and social security was also established. As Union membership increased to 36% after the war and into the 1950s, so did prosperity in this country. It was thanks, in part to the leveling of economic influence of Unions.  Big Business changed things with the passing of the Taft Hartley Act in 1947. Taft Hartley Act amended the National Labor Relations Act which congress passed in 1935. The Taft Hartley Act was seen as means of demobilizing the labor movement by imposing limits on labor’s ability to progress forward.  The Act also limited radicals from their leadership, people who were typically more active in Union activities.

Union shops were restricted; states were allowed to pass right to worker laws that outlawed union shops. Taft Hartley greatly reduced the power of unions to support each other in strikes. Under the terms of Taft Hartley Act, Ronald Regan fired 11,345 PATCO workers. PATCO was de-certified on October 22, 1981. This act alone put fear in Union members and gave Big Business and government the upper hand in negotiations. 

The recent protests in Wisconsin and Ohio showed there is still a spark in workers to stand up, be organized and have the right to be Union.  Wisconsin also shows us that workers have the right to vote and elect Politicians who will support laws that are worker friendly.  Looking at voter turnout last week in Wisconsin, not only did unions turnout to vote, but all communities who are tired of the middle class being walked on top of made their voice clear.  Wisconsin provides a spark in all of us.  Right now, it is showing us the power we always refer to when we reference our solidarity, speaking with one voice, the power we hold when we come together...Now, it is showing us that Unions will once again level the economic future in this country.

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