THE CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF THE TEA PARTY
Brothers and Sisters:
Wisconsin worries me.
I hope that it worries you.
Free societies have free unions. Totalitarian societies don’t. It is that simple. Look at the historic role that unions played in freeing Poland in the 1980s. At the time, President Reagan recognized the key role that unions played and called free trade unions “one of the most elemental human rights.”
How is it possible to turn America’s true heroes, hard-working, middle class workers who repair our bridges and roads, who tend our parks, who provide us healthcare and fire protection and law enforcement, who treat our drinking water, who provide our electricity, and who teach our children into our enemies? How is it possible?
When the tea party came on the scene two years ago, there was clearly a populist element in its message. The message of the tea party today is far different than the first-generation populist faíƒ§ade. It is the message of millionaires and billionaires whose agenda is defined by self-interest and greed. They have turned their elected officials against working people, against the little guy. And they have done so with a frightening totalitarian twist.
Governor Walker in Wisconsin is not alone in doing the bidding of the ultra-wealthy while wrapping himself in the flag of the common man, but his hypocrisy and brazen assault on workers have made him the new anti-common man face of the Republican party and the tea party.
We have seen examples of this anti-worker sentiment in our jurisdiction, most notably in the City of Redding, where a majority of the City Council is intent on enacting a long-term anti-worker agenda instead of working responsibly with the city’s unions to address short-term financial shortfalls. We have seen unprecedented attacks on workers, retirees, and even customers by the current leadership of NV Energy. And we are certain to see anti-worker and anti-union legislation introduced in California and Nevada in the coming months.
There can be no mistake about this. The corporate rightwing of the Republican party has either taken over the tea party or has taken its name and turned the power of billions of dollars against workers and unions. But we have a greater power. There is a line from the great old union song “Solidarity Forever” that rings true: “In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold.” We are willing to work with management in hard times, and to get through hard times we are willing to make concessions that we don’t like. But we’ll be damned if we are going to let them destroy all that we have worked so hard for so long to build.