he Attack on the Public Sector and How Unions are Fighting Bac
The Attack on the Public Sector and How Unions are Fighting Back
The labor movement has rarely won anything without the social movement, and the social movement has rarely won anything without the labor movement. One often cited example is Dr. King’s 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom initiated by A. Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
If you have any doubts about the necessity of a combined effort, watch this archival film of John L. Lewis when he testified before Congress about health care and pensions for miners paid by the coal companies. The resulting welfare fund, hard fought at the grassroots level by miners and their families, was the most comprehensive health care that I can think of. I know because I was covered under it from the mid seventies to the eighties when it was lost under Reagan.
We frequently marginalize each other – social movement folks saying unions don’t matter anymore and condemning labor “bureaucrats” and union folks saying that social movement people don’t care about workers and have grandiose ideas of their own power. Some of us get downright schizophrenic dividing our lives into two segments. It’s time we stop this nonsense. We need to speak a common language.
I want to ask a basic question that unifies religious, labor, and community organizations at the core. Why in this, the richest country in the world, are people poor? Please think about how you might respond.
That same question was posed to a wide segment of people, rich and poor, in 2001. The NPR survey provides an analysis of public response to welfare reform (many of us called it deform) during the Clinton administration.
Here’s a table that asks whether it’s circumstances that create poverty or poor people themselves not doing enough. The percentages describe poverty level — we know it’s set way too low. In 2001 200% of poverty for a family of four was $34,000.
People not doing enough
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