Monday, January 18, 2021

MLK and Making America Union Again

MLK is famous for his life and work, and words of insincere reverence regularly escape the lips of people who'd have opposed him absolutely when he was alive. One thing a lot of people seem to forget about him was that he was passionately pro-union and pro-labor. In fact, at the time of his assassination in Memphis, he happened to be there to support a sanitation workers' strike

MLK was calling "right to work" a false slogan as early as 1961.  What people like Donald Trump call right to work is nothing more than the right to shirk union dues, thereby weakening union in favor of bosses. No one needs a right to work enforced. Our union keeps no one from working and never has. We don't select people for UFT. We simply support and protect everyone who joins. 

That's something in union concept and practice that's missing from the tapestry of modern American life. What Dr. King fought for now comes up as Black Lives Matter. Some people answer that with that American flag with a blue stripe, calling it Blue Lives Matter. What that says, to me at least, is Black Lives Don't Matter, the clarion call of racism in this country since its inception. 

In union, we don't discriminate. I get health care, you get health care, and we all get health care. I get retirement benefits and so do all of us. Who you are doesn't enter into it. Our retirement benefits are now better than those of most Americans. Those same politicians who support the white supremacists would take them away from us (and them) in a heartbeat. Mitch McConnell opposed the HEROES act saying states should go bankrupt. He said some states wasted their money on things like, yes, retirement benefits.

Our pensions are, in fact, part of our agreement with the state. We all agreed to work as teachers, and likely earn less than our advanced degrees might suggest, but the pension was part of the sweetener that kept us there. We earned that. All of us did, whatever our ethnic backgrounds may be.

As for those of us who support Trump, they get the same benefits. In fact, when neo-fascist Rudy Giuliani got cancer, he used government run health care, GHI, to treat it. Yet he'd deny Americans the same privilege. We as union really don't discriminate. But Rudy would. He's part of a movement to explicitly negate the votes of Americans of color.  

Make no mistake--that's what the Trumpies are all about. They aren't marching for the right to deprive Americans of health insurance, as far as they know. They aren't marching for the right to make sure Americans can't unionize to fight for a living wage, as far as they know. They aren't marching to make sure that they continue to pay taxes while the uber-wealthy and corporations pay nothing, or less than nothing, as far as they know.

I know UFT Trump supporters. They're happy to have all the benefits of union. They're happy to have someone to speak up for them, and never hesitate to demand their rights. They'd fight for that, to an extent. However, when we were on the verge of a strike, several told me they would cross picket lines. One was absolutely shocked I challenged him, and seemed to expect me to laugh it off. That's what you call entitlement.

I was not at all happy with his position. First of all, it weakened mine, and ours. Further, why the hell should I, and my true brothers and sisters, make enormous financial sacrifices to benefit scabs? But the scabs, though they want rights, don't believe in union. They won't make the sacrifices or do the work. Union is socialist or something, so it's no good, but sure, they'll take all the benefits anyway.

What they're fighting for is to Make America Great Again, which many of us read as Make America White Again. Hey, The Andy Griffith Show is charming, but America doesn't look like that. Some people want to all of us to pretend it does, and they're the ones who stormed the Capitol on January 6th. They decided not to accept the voices and votes of people of color, and they think that, just because their insane leader says so, they can roll back the voice of the people. Never mind their lip service otherwise.

This year, they've been unsuccessful in completely overturning the people's will. This notwithstanding, it's troubling to see police taking selfies with the seditionists. You have to wonder how many police have drunk the Kool Aid. Judging by police endorsements of Donald Trump, including that of NYC's PDA, many of them have. Police who enabled, encouraged, or gave comfort to the traitors ought not to be police. They're supposed to work for us regardless of skin color. You can't protect people during the day and wear a hood in the evening.

MLK would be relieved that Trump lost this election. He'd be relieved we held Congress and took the Senate, and he'd want us to make sure the racists never ruled our country again. He'd want union to be something available to all Americans. By fighting to keep union vibrant and relevant, we honor his memory. 

Of course our union isn't perfect, and of course we can fight to improve it. But when creeps like de Blasio try to say, screw you, we're not paying you the money we've owed you for over a decade, we have recourses. If the MAGA folks had their way, we'd all be standing around with nothing to comfort us but our right to bigotry.

Who needs that? Let's keep MLK's memory alive, and let's fight even harder to see his vision realized.

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