Do you belong here?

This post is brought to you by Ellen Mancuso.

The first time I heard NYSUT leaders call out brothers and sisters at an event, it was like being in a new church or a new neighborhood. My comfort level just wasn’t there. I believed in collective bargaining but was I really a sister? I remember feeling the same way at my first Rochester Labor Council meeting. I sat with blue-collar guys and got the same sister-hood lingo. They were serious! I wondered did I really belong here?

As the events of 2011 unfold, we see many examples of the brother-sister-hood activity. It is in Wisconsin between farmers and school janitors. It is in Ohio between policemen and teachers. It is in Florida between secretaries and firemen. It is today as we see 45,000 Verizon workers stand strong in one of the largest strikes in the last four years.

NYSUT's Kathleen Donahue and Lee Cutler join a CWA picket line Photo by Chad Radock

Watching union workers in state after state face new challenges, I feel the unity with workers I don’t know. They are our brothers and sisters in the middle class. We have all been under attack for decades but we have been too busy to really notice. We have allowed wars to be fought without forcing our lawmakers to pay the bill. I realize now I have been too busy to talk to my members about America’s shifting wealth. Between 2000-2008, poverty in large metro suburbs grew 25% while the financial industry had 40% of all America’s profits. In 2010, US corporations held a record $1.93 trillion in cash but are not using it to expand their companies. Today CEOs make 343 times what the workers make compared to 1980 when their salaries were only on the average 42 times greater.
Today, the average CEO pay for our large corporations is $11.3 million and still there is a drive to reduce their taxes. The attacks on workers is about one agenda item – move the wealth of the nation to a few and blame globalization, union wages, union collective bargaining, and union health care benefits. While some contend that the State Policy Network and the Koch brothers goal is to undercut unions following the shadow of Reaganomics, David Stockholm, Reagan’s budget guru, is aghast at what is unfolding. Who would have thought the power of those handful of voters who put 87 tea party members into congress last November? Who could have predicted they would hold the budget and congress hostage this summer?

We need to stay closer to the union news than ever before. We need to know:

  • In Ohio, educators have already lost some collective bargaining rights and a vote will be taken this week that could dismantle the public university system;
  • In Michigan, the governor changed laws on revenue sharing and is forcing municipalities into bankruptcy to remove elected officials from office.
  • In Wisconsin, labor succeeded in recalling two anti-working family state Senators, but it was not enough to stop efforts to curtail collective bargaining there.

So today, not only am I comfortable being called sister, I am grateful for it. I have brothers and sisters with me and we are all related in the fight to protecting worker’s rights. I ask you to join us. Stand with us to protect our union and collective bargaining rights for every organized worker in Monroe County. Stand strong with us against attacks on our rights. Stand with us as we fight against the wealthy getting tax breaks.

Brothers and sisters, we are related and we need you to join us in helping voters understand what we are fighting for and then moving them to the polls.

Ellen serves as legislative chair for her union, the Monroe Community College Faculty Association and is on the executive board of the Rochester Labor Council. That’s her behind the Union Proud message she displayed at a November 2010 NYSUT conference.

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