Remember when teachers, public employees, Planned Parenthood, NPR and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401Ks, took trillions in TARP money, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no taxes?
Coverage of the March 15th action from Chattanooga Organized for Action:
The main thing is because we’re being told the same lies over and over again. I mean everyone’s saying we’re broke…we ain’t broke. This country ain’t broke on any level. The problem is that 400 people in this country own the same amount of wealth as the bottom 50% combined. The problem is that there are people making astronomical profits on the backs of hard working Americans. … The reason why our economy is in the state it is is because of predatory corporations in this country that have decided to put profit before the needs of the people. Workers aren’t going to stand for it. Parents aren’t going to stand for it. Students aren’t going to stand for it.
It’s one thing for demonstrators to make a show of force in a historically pro-union state like Wisconsin. Quite another to do it in the South, where a solid phalanx of the political, industrial, religious, and media elite has remained virulently anti-union for decades. It is that same union-busting phalanx — not Southern workers — that has given the South its anti-union reputation.
Southern politicians don’t want to be outdone by Wisconsin Republicans, so Southern workers need to be prepared for an assault on their rights that goes even beyond the assaults they’ve already weathered in this region of poor pay, poor benefits, and a rich-poor divide unequaled anywhere else in the nation.
The above editorial appears in VOICES, the online magazine of the Institute for Southern Studies, covering and reflecting on the March 15th work in Nashville that brought more than a thousand public sector workers and their allies converge on the Capitol to demand good jobs, living wages, and an end to attacks on workers and public services. It also reflects on the youth-led direct action that took place inside the Capitol later in the day:
I’m thousands of miles away in Taipei, but I’m heartened to see brave young students join union members in taking a stand against anti-union bills before Tennessee’s state legislature in Nashville.
Here’s a video from before the March 15th mobilization that we helped support, produced by one of our coalition’s partners Chattanooga Organized for Action. It does a good job of locating the attacks on workers and poor people within a larger campaign of attacks meant to consolidate the gains of the rich that they are garnering throughout the economic crisis that continues to hurt working people but not Wall Street.
Its goal for the past forty years has been to draft “model bills” that conservative legislators can introduce in the 50 states. Its website claims that in each legislative cycle, its members introduce 1000 pieces of legislation based on its work, and claims that roughly 18% of these bills are enacted into law. (Among them was the controversial 2010 anti-immigrant law in Arizona.)
Of course, it’s part of a larger network of conservative organizations, institutions, and groups that are part of the Right Wing attacks that are going on right now. Another important member is the State Policy Network, which has partners in all 50 states,including Tennessee.
As we continue to develop our work to fight for public services and the folks who make those work, and to defend against the Right Wing attack on working people, we need to get better about understanding who our enemies are, what their work is, and what they’re scheming to do.
One of our online favorites, COLORLINES, digs into the question of race and the attack on public service workers today, asking and answering succinctly: Who Are All These Evil Public Workers? Black People. We’re happy to see this investigation, as its hard to forget the highly racialized (and racist!) undertones and overtones of the past years’ “Tea Party movement,” and their arrival in power this year through the Republican Party, which now seeks to…lay off public service workers, who are disproportionately people of color, and specifically Black folks. The study finds:
14.5 percent of all public sector workers in the nation are black, making the sector second only to health and education services as the most heavily black workforce. In all other sectors, black workers hover around or below 10 percent. Again, if you took out states with disproportionate white populations or even focused on states with budget crises, I bet you’d see an even greater disparity.
More than one in five black workers are employed in public administration, as are 23.3 percent of black women in the workforce. That compares to just under 17 percent of all white workers.
Black women in the public sector make significantly less than everyone else. Their median wage is $15.50 an hour; the sector’s median wage overall is $18.38. White men make $21.24.
This is just a reminder that attacks on public services and the folks that make those services work are attacks need to be taken up as part of a struggle against institutional and systemic racism & sexism in our society, and we need to bring an anti-racist & anti-sexist vision to our strategies.
Americans Stand With Public Service Workers & Their Unions
Today’s New York Times reports on a poll that demonstrates that a majority of Americans stand on the side of the people who make our public services and our government work: “As labor battles erupt in state capitals around the nation, a majority of Americans say they oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions and are also against cutting the pay or benefits of public workers to reduce state budget deficits.”
The poll finds that:
Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent;
Those surveyed said they opposed, 56 percent to 37 percent, cutting the pay or benefits of public employees to reduce deficits;
A majority of respondents who have no union members living in their households opposed both cuts in pay or benefits and taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees.
Moreover, Americans are increasingly united behind the solution of making the people who caused the economic crisis—the rich and their allies on Wall Street—pay for it, instead of attacking working people to do so. From the article:
Given a list of options to reduce the deficit, 40 percent said they would increase taxes, 22 percent chose decreasing the benefits of public employees, 20 percent said they would cut financing for roads and 3 percent said they would cut financing for education.
The Republicans’ claim to be acting on behalf of taxpayers is not believable…[their] true priority is stripping workers of collective-bargaining rights and reducing their unions to a shell.
From today’s New York Times’ editorial page, “Spreading Anti-Union Agenda.” Budget cuts are being used to attack working peoples’ organizations that are the last line of defense against the wealthy’s attempts to make more, more, more. With income inequality in the US steeper than it has been since the Great Depression, we need to stand up to these attacks and support the rights of workers to organize together for their rights—and ours.
Public Knoxville is a campaign of Jobs with Justice of East Tennessee to fight back against cuts to public service budgets and attacks on public service workers.
Knoxville Area Jobs with Justice is a coalition of faith-based and community-based organizations, labor unions, and individuals committed to social and economic justice for working people and their families in East Tennessee. It began as a committee of the Knoxville/Oak Ridge Labor Council and gained its independent charter from the National Jobs with Justice.