On Solidarity (and why it matters)

So here’s the thing: I’ll never, ever hide my political stripes. I’m a pinko-commie, education-loving, outdoors-protecting, tax-the-rich-and-give-it-to-the-poor kind of liberal. I think that the people who sweat and labor, the people who keep us safe, the people who heal us and who care for us when we are dying, the people who put their bodies and lives in harms way, the people who care for our most vulnerable populations – they ALL deserve a fair shake. And even more than that – they deserve to share in this country’s wealth and prosperity JUST AS MUCH as the folks in Wall Street who do nothing more than move numbers around.

(and secretly, I think they deserve more)

I grew up listening to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly and Pete Seeger and the rest of them. I read The Grapes of Wrath and Bound for Glory in sixth grade, and re-read it every year thereafter to calibrate my soul.

I believe in sweat-equity.

I believe that the folks doing the work know more about a business’s operations than the folks who own the business – and that the two sides should listen to one another, and treat each other as equals.

Which is why I believe in unions.

I was a card-carrying union member for only a short time in my life – but the symbolism, the poetry of it was important to me. I grew up in a family that honored strike lines. I remember as a little girl going with my dad to the supermarket and passing by the place we normally shopped. When I asked about it, my dad said simply, “In this family, we don’t cross strike lines.”

It’s a policy I’ve kept, even to this day.

I am simultaneously thrilled and terrified by the situation in Wisconsin. Thrilled because the forces on the Right (or, more specifically, the ridiculously rich backers of the media outlets that fuel the rage on the Right) have been working for the last four decades to slowly dismantle the power of unions and the protections they offer to working people.

I’m thrilled because the world can now see the impact that unions have – and the terrible price that thousands and thousands of people would pay if they were dismantled. I’m thrilled because people of all incomes, education levels and walks of life are coming together and standing as brothers and sisters. I’m thrilled because when people join their voices together they are great, they are powerful, and they are mighty.

But I’m scared of the power that the Koch brothers and the rest of the bozos funding the Tea Party and the Prosperity Foundation and the rest of the hysterical half-truth generators that have more money than they know what to do with and more media access than they deserve. And I’m worried about the virulence of lies.

In any case, I stand in solidarity with the Wisconsin workers – and with all workers around the world who have found it necessary to agitate for their rights, and to remind the owning classes of the wondrous and thrilling power of the people. To that end, I encourage all of you to visit Tom Tomorrow’s blog for some ideas of what you can do to help the strikers.

I bought pizza. Because strikers gotta eat.

4 thoughts on “On Solidarity (and why it matters)

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. It IS exciting to see the hornet’s nest this has stirred up. But so troubling all the same that it’s come to this pass, that this country continues to elect such big business yes-men. Just break the unions and please, please, please don’t take any more money from those making $250,000+ / year. They simply can’t afford it. Not in the budget for this year. It almost blows the mind.

    Having worked on both sides of the fence – union and non-union – I’ve seen their pluses and minuses. There are downsides to a union. Corruption, greed, resistance to change, and misplaced anger are just a few.

    But that doesn’t mean they’re not absolutely NECESSARY. They are, and have done their small part to help the middle class survive in a world tilting further and further toward a two class, rich and poor, system. All those non-union workers making union (or close to union) wage? You wouldn’t be doing so if the union hadn’t established standards as baselines for an industry.

  2. Oh, absolutely. As thrilling as it was for me to be part of the teachers union, there were times that I wanted to throttle the folks running the show. And largely, while unions are responsible for pretty much every protection that workers have (40-hour work week, prohibitions on child labor, minimum wage, weekends, OSHA, anti-harassment rules, just to name a few), they’ve had their share of sins as well (sexism, racism, an unfair tilt towards those at the end of their careers at the expense of those at the beginning, and what have you).

    Still. God bless unions. God bless the work they do. And for crying out loud, is it THAT unreasonable that workers unify their voices and interests, and look out for one another? Just one more reason why I stand with Wisconsin.

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