“America Cannot Have a Middle Class Without Unions”
By Dennis Van Roekel
National Education Association President
True fiscal leadership requires creative solutions grounded in the most important needs of the community. So faced with crippling budget deficits, fiscally responsible governors should focus on reforms that create jobs and a long-term agenda for moving their states forward. All of this sounds plausible enough.
But in many states that flipped to GOP control last fall, nothing about it is true.
In actions more fitting for comic book arch-villains, a new crop of state leaders have launched blistering attacks on working families disguised as budget and education reforms, and many have sought to strip workers’ rights to have a voice through their union. Instead of dealing with the real problems at hand, such as looming deficits and high unemployment, these politicians are choosing to use public sector workers as scapegoats.
Gov. Chris Christie launched this storyline in New Jersey, where for the past year he has tried to make scapegoats out of public employees in general and educators specifically, blaming us for the weak economy. Now his understudies are falling into line with one purpose: to silence the voice of the middle class with anti-worker and anti-union legislation.
• In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget repair bill” would strip public employees across the board – from teachers and prison guards, to nurses and snowplow drivers – of their right to have a voice in their profession.
• In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels and his allies are trying to ram through legislative attacks on public sector workers, crippling their right to form effective unions.
• In Ohio, under the direction of Gov. John Kasich, the GOP-controlled legislature is ready to wipe out the state’s nearly 30-year-old collective bargaining law and sharply curtail binding arbitration rules for local governments.
• In Idaho, School State Superintendent Tom Luna unveiled a package of proposals that would undermine public education and gut job protections for educators.
• In Tennessee, politicians backed by big business interests are seeking to abolish collective bargaining between teachers unions and school boards across the state.