Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why We Should Stand With Wisconsin

My mom was a public employee in Children's services. She would come home with heartbreaking stories of dealing with severely abused children. She would relate how tough it was on the social workers who were overloaded with cases. My mother-in-law was a public employee and she would wake up early to get to work when the stock market opened to invest money for our county.

While being an adoptee, I have a complicated view of social workers, but I appreciate the work they do for the elderly, homeless, mentally ill, poor, children, single moms, the handicapped, all the people that the public would like to disappear. Social workers are evidence that at some point as a country we cared about the weakest among us. Private charities simply cannot help these people when they have to rely on volunteers and private contributions. They can never approach the scale of government workers. Government workers do what they do under the hostility of demagogues and the public scorn. People look down on public workers and treat them terribly. They do work that most people do not want to do and have none of the sexiness of private sector jobs.

People will complain about government workers, their poor service, and how the private sector is better. I know from working in the private sector, that the private sector has been working to provide less customer service to feed the bottom line. Try getting tech support on the phone sometime. There are bad employees in both private and public places of business and they can be equally difficult to get rid of, believe me.

Public employees keep our parks clean after the sloppy and thoughtless public visits them. Fire fighters run into fires to save us. Teachers educate the next generation of scientists, doctors, etc. Police keep us safe. Public health nurses help poor women breastfeed and take care of their newborns. 911 operators stay cool for us in our worst of times. There are public employees who track epidemics and some who track earthquakes. There are public employees who clear and repair roads. They make sure our workplaces, food, and drugs we take are safe. There are people who investigate elder abuse or child abuse. Even the paper pushers make sure we can depend that our records are their when they need them (except if you are an adoptee). The list goes on.

Those of us in the private sector have to spend an inordinate time trying to convince people that they need the products we offer, but public servants are needed by our nation's weakest members -- a pool of people that grow everyday.

Union employees fought and earned the rights they have because they organized and hung together. Their fight got us the 40 hr work week, sick pay, vacation pay, disability insurance, overtime things we take for granted and allow those rights to be eroded over time. That is why we have to stand with them now.

I believe that the purpose of demonization of unions distracts people from asking why the people who created this economic disaster are not being frogmarched to jail. It distracts from the reality that wealth is being hoarded by a few people who allow our infrastructure, public safety, education, all the things that made commerce possible to disintegrate. They have made their wealth of us, and now they do not care about the future of this country because they can simply take their wealth elsewhere. They have robbed wealth and have left a country for the next generation that is worse than they found it. Those who have all the wealth fight against our ability to have basic health care, clean air, clean water, and having a decent education.
They make us fight over reproductive rights, having a secular fact based education, workers rights, guns, climate change, and health care when in the past 25 and especially the oughts wealth has been redistributed at an historic rate from 98% to the 2% of the population.

It is time for us to see ourselves as workers and stand with Wisconsin and Ohio. Instead of resenting union worker benefits and security ask ourselves why we never fought for our own rights and benefits. The more workers earn and the more security they have the better economy we will have because workers can buy and generate demand for goods and services that generate wealth. Workers manufacture and provide services that create wealth. It is time to stand with the workers for the sake of our economy and the soul of our country.

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