Seniors gear up to fight back in 2012
by Bill Wallace
Representing Local 1245 at the ARA convention were, from left: Bill Wallace, Tom Bird, Rita Weisshaar, Mike Davis and Ken Rawles.
Republicans demonstrated after their midterm win in 2010 elections that their goal is to legislatively strip away the right to vote, limit a union’s ability to represent workers, and eliminate your pension and benefits. Additionally, the treatment of women and minorities is taking a major step backwards with recent laws and proposed laws.
This attack on workers was a major focus of the Alliance for Retired Americans conference in Las Vegas, Feb. 29 to Mar. 2.
IBEW Local 1245 sent five retirees to the conference: Tom Bird, vice president of NARA (Nevada Alliance for Retired Americans) and president of the IBEW 1245 Yerrington retiree club; Rita Weisshaar, vice president of the IBEW 1245 Reno/Sparks retirees club; Mike Davis, IBEW 1245 president; and Ken Rawles, IBEW 1245 Ninth District vice president CARA (California Alliance for Retired Americans); and myself.
Conservative millionaires throughout the nation have funded numerous initiatives that would weaken unions.The right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council, funded in part by the billionaire Koch brothers, is working to restrict the number of people voting in order to increase the right-wing’s leverage. The smaller the number of people voting, the greater the chance that a Republican will be elected. Restrictive voter registration laws have been passed since the midterm elections and seniors and minorities have been denied the right to vote for the most insignificant reasons.
Voter fraud amongst Latinos has been cited as the reason for these restrictive laws, but getting struck with lightening is more likely than voter fraud. The real reason is that the Latino vote has increased and these restrictions are meant to stop or reduce the Latino vote. What truly democratic country would want fewer citizens voting?
The current political reality is that elected officials across the United States are trying to destroy collective bargaining, pensions, and unions, as well as Social Security and Medicare. We need to get fired up about this election. Our way of life, which unions helped to create, is evaporating. The middle class is quickly becoming the have-not class and the class of the past.
Republicans want to privatize Social Security and turn over our contributions to private stock brokers. It is important for the future of working people to win this fight. The presidential election is crucial, and 65+ vote will be crucial in the west. We cannot let our generation be the last generation that is able to retire with a livable income and health benefits.
The theme of the ARA conference emphasized that seniors need to take stock of the political reality and play an active role countering these attacks against workers, the union, pensions and healthcare benefits. It is imperative that we support candidates that reflect the core values of the American union worker.
Being elderly does not necessarily equate to being wiser. Seniors consistently vote against their own best interest. We need to pay attention to the forces that are working to destroy us. We need to ask ourselves: How can a politician’s stance really affect our lives? What are the “unintended” consequences when we vote for someone without considering their stance on economic issues that affect our standard of living?
Our training emphasized opening up an offensive to defeat these attacks on unions, workers and seniors. Workshops emphasized online organizing, getting the facts, and organizing seniors locally. The schedule was intense in teaching us how to spread the truth by educating seniors through personal contact and by the use of social media. The training helped us to better understand the positive impact of Medicare, Social Security and the Affordable Healthcare Act and respond more intelligently to criticism.
Sort through the “political dogma” of politicians who are going to “fix” Social Security or Medicare. If Social Security and Medicare are changed to something else, they will no longer be Social Security or Medicare. We don’t have to destroy Social Security to save it; it can be by relatively minor adjustments to the contribution formula.
The first vote cast by young people is very important, because they will most likely continue to vote the same way the rest of their lives. For that reason reaching young people is extremely important so that they cast a more intelligent vote. We need to engage them in the political process, because decisions made today can affect them both positively and negatively the rest of their lives
This year’s political cycle has serious implications for retired IBEW 1245 members, but it is important for active members, too. We inherited a great union which has bargained for good wages and benefits. However, we sometimes take for granted those long-forgotten men and women who fought for what we have today. We can repay them for their sacrifice by standing with others today to resist this assault on the rights of working people and middle class.
We cannot standby and allow “others” to be disenfranchised. We must stand by our sisters and fight the forces that are treating them as second-class citizens. Collectively we must remember that unions do not exist in a vacuum. When others are attacked and we do nothing, we are the next in line for an attack. An attack on one is an attack on all and success will depend on your involvement.