Tom Bird and Bill Wallace thank the Executive Board of Local 1245 for sending us to the Alliance of Retired Americans ‘Leadership Conference’. The Alliance, a grass roots organization, believes that success against those opposed to workers rights depends on the active participation of the retirees. Our training concentrated on learning new techniques to improve our future effectiveness addressing the issues confronting us. Tom and I also want to thank President Ed Hill for providing the highlight of our trip to Washington D.C. While visiting the IBEW Headquarters, President Hill invited us into his office to discuss issues important to us. He proved to be down to earth with a genuine interest in our concerns.
‘The fight never ends, the work never stops,’ was a common theme expressed by AFL/CIO President Richard Trumka and other leaders at the Conference. Let’s face it, the political environment for workers isn’t getting any better. In fact, it’s getting worse. The political climate has gone from the ‘New Deal’ of the 1930’s to the ‘Bad Deal’ of the 2013’s. Politicians have manufactured a false financial crises. Their push to austerity is premised on the falsehood that Social Security has caused the economic problem. Not only has it not caused the problem, it has never cost the general fund one cent.
While workers take pay cuts, lose benefits and are furloughed, CEO’s get multimillion dollar bonuses even as their corporations are failing. In the legislature the ‘Tail’ is wagging the ‘Dog’. The Republicans have shown that if they can’t pass laws to hurt us, they will prevent making adjustments on programs like Social Security by using obstructing tactics. It is important for us to get involved in order to break up this log jam.
The long term sustainability of the Alliance, as a grass roots organization, is dependent on increasing it’s membership of both individuals and community based groups. It is vital to the Alliance mission that we connect with the youth of our country. Regardless of the age difference, It is important to realize that youth and the elderly are not groups of opposing viewpoints. Each desires a life of respect, dignity and financial security. It is also important that the Alliance reaches all groups. Social media such as, facebook, E-mails and letters to the editor are important tools in getting out the Alliance message. This year the Alliance has launched a new initiative to recruit, train and engage 50,000 new activists to support the Alliance policy agenda and to increase the operational capacity of State Alliances.
Sadly, it is easier for us to accept a plausible lie than it is to believe the complicated truth. With the tremendous influx of corporation money, plausible lies are rampant. It is imperative that we improve our message to counter these lies. Changing the manner in which we respond to critics of Social Security and Medicare is important in winning this war. We need to sell Social Security in the same way soap companies sell soap. We don’t win by going on the defense, we win by re-invigorating the image of Social Security as the retirement system that we built. It is a proven system we can count on. Social Security is the true ‘American Pie’. It is a critical retirement system and is a safe bet relative to other retirement scenarios, such as a 401k. ‘Our’ Social Security system was built many years ago with the intended purpose that it would remain self sufficient. It has proven itself to be a ‘business’ without any debt. What we built has proven to be the single most reliable government program we have ever put together and has never taken a cent from the Federal treasury.
The age of corporation monopolies was curtailed at the beginning of the 20th century by a Republican President and was restarted in the modern era by a Republican President. Today, monopolies are as alive, ruthless and brutal as they were when JP Morgan, John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, with their vast fortunes, ruled this country. Today, the forces out to destroy unions and the middle class are single minded in their goals and they have unlimited cash resources.
The fight for never ends. Workers of today, benefit from the contributions and the gains made by previous generations of union members. Having the ability to form a union is as much a concern for retirees as it is for those actively employed. Good wages, benefits and safety on the job is a style of living retirees want for their kids and grandkids. To further these goals, the labor community could use the collective wisdom of its’ retirees. Both active and retired need to join forces and go on the offense in fighting the constant attacks against workers.
We are all the ‘Union’ and we should speak for all workers. It is important that we extend our core values of education, healthcare, safe working conditions and a union workplace for all workers. As we reflect on the union movements current status, it is important to keep in mind the proper prospective. We are way ahead of where our forefathers were when they sacrificed their lives to stand against large corporations and the government. Today we have a life only dreamed about by our union heroes. Could this good life hurt us more than help us? With the comforts we enjoy today, can we still motivate ourselves to take a stand? Keep this in mind. The ‘Warren Buffets’ of todays world are counting on our apathy and complacency as they continue their pursuit of profits at any cost. With their multi-faceted attack, they are a compelling force and we are the last line of defense. To endure, we must stay engaged, because the war against workers will never stop and our fight will never truly end.