OP-ED | Union Members Not Interested in ‘Wisconsin Moment’
A union is its members. Here in Connecticut, our unions are made up of ordinary middle class people like us, who work hard to make Connecticut the great state that it is. We are proud to be part of organizations that advocate on behalf of all working people.
This is why, after working full days and taking care of our children and families, we volunteer our precious free time to impact the issues that affect workers statewide. We knock on doors, talk to our co-workers, and discuss our pensions, healthcare costs, and election results because our livelihoods depend on it.
Elections have consequences, and this year is no different. Connecticut voters have a big decision to make in November. Union members and our families are smart; we know what Connecticut workers stand to lose if we elect the wrong people in November.
A year ago, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley asked, “When is the Wisconsin moment going to come to Connecticut?” He was referring, of course, to Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Assembly that stripped Wisconsin public service workers of most of their collective bargaining rights with the enactment of Act 10.
Here’s how the so-called “Wisconsin moment” played out: Walker’s slash-and-burn policies have led to the loss of 15,500 state and local government jobs. Wisconsin public workers who stayed employed under Act 10 suffered an average pay cut of 8 percent. Think about that. A Wisconsin public worker earning $30,000 per year now earns $2,400 less than she or he did in previous years and can’t do anything about it. How exactly does that help spur economic activity?
Foley’s recent backpedaling from his “Wisconsin moment” remark does not change the fundamental dynamics at all. How is it fair to tell workers to accept pay cuts while the top 1% earn more each year? How is it fair to reward employees for their years of service by slashing their salaries and asking them to do more for less? Is this what we want to happen in Connecticut?
Of course not. That’s why we are involved in politics through our unions — it takes a collective voice to advocate for pro-worker policies that strengthen the middle class and reduce income inequality.
However, our resources are no match for those who consistently outspend unions. They are the ones overrepresented in the political arena.
Meanwhile back in Wisconsin, Scott Walker appears to be driving his state into a ditch with his slash-and-burn approach to workers’ rights and collective bargaining. A recent federal report shows Wisconsin slipped to 37th nationally in new-job creation last year while falling nearly 140,000 jobs short of Walker’s pledge to create 250,000 new private sector jobs.
His so-called labor reforms have cost Wisconsin’s economy nearly a billion dollars a year in local spending. And now he’s battling allegations that he broke state election laws by coordinating fund-raising efforts with conservative groups that supported his decimation of collective bargaining rights.
The last thing we need is a Koch Brothers-funded campaign to transform Connecticut into Walker’s Wisconsin. As rank-and-file union members, we are proud to support candidates who side with working people, who yearn for a Connecticut moment, not a Wisconsin moment.
Because if Connecticut’s workers don’t stand up for each other, who will?
Uri Allen is an associate community services representative at the Connecticut Department of Labor and a member of AFSCME Local 269, representing more than 500 state employees. Harry Rodriguez is a Lawrence + Memorial (L+M) Hospital health unit coordinator and president of AFT Local 5123, which represents more than 800 healthcare workers at the acute care facility.