Does the Wisconsin loss mean working people turned on each other? Have we lost our way? Is the term "middle class" meaningless? Those are the questions asked by Rick Hicks, secretary-treasurer of Local 174 in Tukwila, Wash.
Brother Hicks concludes we have not lost our way in an eloquent post to the local's website. We wanted to share the whole thing with you:
The recent election loss in Wisconsin left many of us with a profound sense of despair. Is America turning its back on unions? Have working people turned upon each other? How can a democracy that has been the envy of the rest of the world sell itself to plutocratic billionaires?
When moneyed interests can buy politicians and judges, control media messaging, and prevent opponents from voting, the average citizen has no power and the term 'middle class' becomes meaningless. The fabric that has held our society together is being unraveled by corporate and political interests, and too many of our fellow citizens don't seem to realize it, or–even worse–don't seem to care.
We see people turn upon neighbors who make a higher hourly wage, then rush to defend corporations that take billions in tax dollar bailouts, shut down companies and transfer jobs overseas. It seems impossible that so many people are too ignorant to recognize their own self interest. But when you get right down to it, maybe we are becoming a people who increasingly look at one another in terms of differences instead of similarities. Just look at Olympia and Washington D.C. The new order of politicians don't want to find common ground anymore or govern for the whole. They want to ram their agenda up the opposition's ass. It's 'us' versus 'them' in the worst possible way. Politics has turned into full-contact warfare over who has the ruling power, and people are nothing but faceless votes.
At times like this, we look for a beacon of light, for any ray of hope. But our political leaders seem to be absent. Our own allies tell us that the world is changing and that unions should just get used to a diminished role. Our political opponents preach that working class people are the source of all the ills in the world. We live in a country increasingly polarized by fear, resentment, and hatred. What has happened to us? Where is the fulfillment of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream? What has happened to the idealism of Reagan's Shining City upon a Hill?
The Preamble of the U.S. Constitution starts with the words, "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, ..." Now, the founding fathers weren't talking about labor organizations as we know them today, but they WERE talking about an underlying principle that this nation and unions have always shared–that we are stronger when we work together, when we lift one another up and care for each other. Those ideals are still as true and as powerful today as they ever were.
Through the history of our nation, there have been dark times. Times when the lantern of hope has seemed to dim. But there have always been stalwart men and women who have stood tall and resolute. Union people have never failed to step up when the need was most urgent–even when the costs were most dire. We will not abandon our ideals or the dreams of a decent life for the children of this nation. We will not turn our back on people who need us.
An old Chinese proverb says that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Mahatma Gandhi told his followers to be the change they wanted to see in the world. We will not stop fighting for the things we believe in. People matter. Corporations are not people. No person should have the right to subjugate another. Every person in this country deserves the same opportunity to work hard and fulfill their dreams. The rules that govern our society should be fair and just for all.
We may have lost an election, but we have NOT lost our way.