But while they prate of economic laws, men and women are starving. We must lay hold of the fact that economic laws are not made by nature. They are made by human beings.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Well the Republican Governors have seized an opportunity of a recession to bust the back of unions.  This poor economy is not due to Labor Unions who have given back under each and every contract so that they would not have to pay in full for health care,  while Corporate America has been given tax break after tax break since Pres. Ronald Reagan under the guise that it keeps them competitive.  Well, while they are being competitive off of our tax dollars, they are steadily sending our jobs overseas for SLAVE WAGES.   These tactics have allowed Corporate America to make in the third quarter of 2010, the biggest profit in the history of the United States.  How do we reward them for such wealth?  We give them more tax breaks while we ask the working class and the poor to give up some more of their earnings in salary and benefits at the same time we are calling the unions greedy and evil.  Is there no end to this extortion?  We must fight to bring back the middle class by restoring the tax laws that first created the middle-class, otherwise we will forever ride this merry-go-round of making the working class pay for the excesses of the rich.

The average CEO in the United States makes over 400 times as much as the average worker.  They are not working 400 times as hard as you and I.  And they are certainly not 400 times as smart as you and I, that’s impossible.  This means that for every CEO  a company pays that kind of salary to, that is 400 workers that they cannot hire unless they pay them poverty-level wages.  Yet we still have to give these corporations tax breaks so that they can do business in our states instead of for example India, which they are doing anyway.

Why Wisconsin?  Wisconsin is the birth of the Labor Movement.  The first union – the bricklayers was formed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1847 followed by the carpenters in 1848.  The shoemakers founded the Knights of St. Crispin in 1867 which became the first national trade union organization and grew to become the largest union in the nation.  Talks intensified across the nation in the 1880s and the Eight Hour League (formerly Milwaukee Labor Reform Association) was formed to agitate for the eight-hour work day that we now take for granted.  On May 5, 1886 demonstrators were attacked by troops called out by Gov. Jeremiah Rusk.  Five people were killed and four wounded as the troops open fired on the crowd of protesters.  We eventually achieved the 40 hour work week.  In 1911 Wisconsin then passed the Workman’s Compensation Law.  Labor unions continued to agitate and won unemployment compensation in 1932 and The Employment Relations Act in 1937 to support THE RIGHT OF WORKERS TO ORGANIZE and now Gov. Walker wants to take that right away.

What Gov. Walker is asking of the union members is to give up their right to have a representative of the union bargain for anything more than wages on their behalf.  No more bargaining for benefits, because he wants the public to believe that what they give in benefits to the workers is the reason that the states are running these huge deficits, which according to the  State CBO (Congressional Budget Office), Madison is not one of those whose deficit is so large that it demands a swift cut.  As a matter of fact, Madison’s General Fund  reported a surplus in 2010.  There is a $137 million dollar shortfall in Wisconsin.  It’s the $137 MILLION DOLLAR TAX CUT that was given to the corporations.

I think what we need to follow the money that backed the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker coming from Wall Street Hedge Fund managers and the Koch brothers of Koch Industries.  The Pension funds for public pensions are pre-funded, they are in good shape.  The politicians have dipped into the pension funds for their own use, such as New Jersey, borrowed from the Pension fund to give tax breaks to the wealthy and some states just failed to fund them like they were suppose to, so what did they do with that money?   You have a small few whose pension fund managers invested a portion of that money in Hedge Funds on Wall Street and was scammed.  If the pension funds are losing monies, it is not because of the public employee.

This is an all out assault campaign to bust unions because since the Citizens United case, the unions are the only competition to the corporate funded Republican Party.  Of the top ten contributors to the political parties, three of them are unions [#5 SEIU, #6 AFSCME and #9 NEA].  So if the Governor is successful in Wisconsin, then Ohio and Indiana are next, and UNIONS begin to fall like dominoes.  They have already reduced private unions.  Union membership has declined steadily from 13% in 2000 to less than 11.9% now.  6.9% is private unions and 36.2% of workers are public unions according to the U.S. Dept. Of Labor Statistics.  My hope is that we can now see that it has to be one for all and all for one.  We can never reach our greatest heights unless we heed this call for unity and solidarity.  If the corporate sponsored Governor Walker and his Tea Party activists can convince the public that the unions are taking up all of the states wealth and not the consistent billion dollar tax breaks that are given to corporate interests such as Koch Industries to continue to create more and more jobs overseas at the expense of the American Worker using American tax breaks and slave labor from China, Sri Lanka, Africa to make themselves richer and furthering the divide between rich and poor greater, then we have lost the war.  We must use the facts against them.  We cannot sustain this fight if the members of unions are uninformed, because they will begin to be convinced by the media coverage that the very union that protects them is the enemy.  They will be convinced that it is okay to create the deficits by constant tax breaks to the wealthy since Ronald Reagan.

In the last 10 years, the average salary for workers have declined by $2000.  The gap between rich and poor is at its greatest.  The Robber-Barons are winning.  We are in the 2nd Gilded Age.

Now is the time to STAND AND FIGHT!  When they tell you it’s the Unions fault, DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE!  Tell your mothers, Tell your daughters, your sons and neighbors.  Tell them your story and get them to stand with you and union because if they are part of your community, they are in the same boat as you.  GET AND SPREAD THE FACTS!  STAND TOGETHER AND BEAT THE REPUBLICAN AND CORPORATE UNION BUSTING ACT!

Penny McQuaig


“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

Martin Luther King ,jr.

On January 17th, 2011, the nation will honor the birthday of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.  What will this day truly mean to us?  As union, we should remember, extol and inform the membership of the service he gave to union members. He understood that a living wage was a civil right.

During the 1960s, King had committed himself to building a bridge between the civil rights and labor movements.  He was invited to address the AFL-CIO’s annual convention in 1961, King observed that “the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who today attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.”

In 1968, King and the SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] organized the “Poor People’s Campaign” to address issues of economic injustice.  This campaign culminated in a march on Washington, D.C. demanding economic aid to the poorest communities of the  nation.  King traveled around the  country assembling a multiracial coalition of activist for the poor that would march on Washington and engage in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol until Congress created a bill of rights for poor Americans.

Many Americans today know that Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, but few know why he was there.

Several major unions, including the United Auto Workers and the International Ladies Garment Workers, supported the civil rights groups, their sit-ins, freedom rides and helped organize the famous 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.  The Memphis’ civil rights and union leaders invited King to their city to help draw national attention to the garbage strike.

The strike began over the mistreatment of 22 sewer workers who reported for work on January 31, 1968, and were sent home when it began raining.  White employees were not sent home.  When the rain stopped after an hour or so, they continued to work and were paid for the full day, while the black workers lost a day’s pay.  The next day, two sanitation workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were crushed to death by a malfunctioning city garbage truck compressor.  The reason the workers were crushed, was because they had to ride the back of the truck.  As African-Americans, they were not allowed to sit in the truck.

These two incidents were typical representations of the workers’ long-standing grievances.  Wages averaged about $1.70 per hour.  40% of the workers also qualified for welfare to supplement their poverty-level salaries. There were no  health care benefits, pensions, or vacations.  They worked in filthy conditions, and lacked the basics, like a place to eat and shower.  They were required to haul leaky garbage cans that spilled maggots and debris on them.  White supervisors called them “boy” and arbitrarily sent them home without pay for minor violations that they overlooked when white workers did the same thing.

On February 12, 1,300 black sanitation workers walked off their jobs, demanding that the city recognize their union (the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFSCME) and negotiate to resolve their grievances.  They also demanded a pay increase to $2.35 an hour, overtime pay, and merit promotions without regard to race.

The city, while using non-union workers and supervisors to pick up garbage downtown, from hospitals, and in residential areas, still could not keep up with garbage pick up and it resulted in thousands of tons of backed up garbage.   The NAACP sponsored all-night vigils and pickets at City Hall.  On February 23, 1,500 people — strikers and their supporters — packed City Hall chambers, but the all-white city council voted to back the mayor’s refusal to recognize the union.

Local ministers formed a citywide group to support the strikers.  500 white labor unionists from Memphis and other Tennessee cities joined black ministers and sanitation workers in their daily march downtown.

On several occasions, the police attacked the strikers with clubs and mace.  They  even arrested strike leaders for jaywalking.  On March 5, 117 strikers and supporters were arrested for sitting in at city hall.  Six days later, hundreds of students skipped high school to participate in a march led by black ministers.  Two students were arrested.

The protest was escalating, yet the city establishment dug in its heels.  Mayor Loeb and City Attorney Frank B. Gianotti convinced a local judge to issue an injunction prohibiting the strike and picketing.  The union and its supporters  refused to end their protests.  Several union leaders — AFSCME’s international president Jerry Wurf, Local 1733 President T.O. Jones, and national staffers William Lucy and P. J. Ciampa — were cited for contempt, sentenced to 10 days in jail, fined $50, and freed pending appeal.

With tensions rising and no compromise in sight, local ministers and AFSCME invited Dr. King to Memphis to stimulate the local movement, lift the strikers’ dwindling spirits, and encourage them to remain nonviolent.  March 18, King spoke at a rally attended by 17,000 people calling for a citywide march. His speech triggered national media attention, and became the catalyst for the rest of the labor movement to expand its support for the strikers.

King returned to Memphis on Thursday, March 28, to lead the march.  The police moved into crowds with night sticks, mace, tear gas, and gunfire.  The police arrested 280 people, 60 were injured and a 16-year-old boy, Larry Payne, was shot to death.  The state legislature authorized a 7 p.m. curfew and 4,000 National Guardsmen moved in.  The next day, 300 sanitation workers and supporters marched peacefully and silently to City Hall — escorted by five armored personnel carriers, five jeeps, three large military trucks, and dozens of Guardsmen with bayonets fixed.  President Lyndon Johnson and AFL-CIO President George Meany offered their help in resolving the dispute, but Mayor Loeb turned them down.

King then went to Washington D.C. and gave a speech on March 31, 1968 at the National Cathedral **, before returning to Memphis on Wednesday, April 3 rd to address a rally to pressure city officials to negotiate a compromise solution to the strike. That night, at the Mason Temple — packed with over 10,000 black workers and residents, ministers, white union members, white liberals, and students — King delivered what would turn out to be his last speech***. He emphasized the linked fate of the civil rights and labor movements:

Memphis Negroes are almost entirely a working people. Our needs are identical with labor’s needs — decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community. That is why Negroes support labor’s demands and fight laws which curb labor. That is why the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth.



The next day, James Earl Ray assassinated King as he stood on the balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Hotel.

As Time magazine noted at the time: “Ironically, it was the violence of Martin Luther King’s death rather than the nonviolence of his methods that ultimately broke the city’s resistance” and led to the strike settlement.  President Johnson ordered federal troops to Memphis and instructed Undersecretary of Labor James Reynolds to mediate the conflict and settle the strike.  The following week, Coretta Scott King, and dozens of national figures led a peaceful memorial march through downtown Memphis in tribute to Dr. King and in support of the strike.  Local business leaders, tired of the boycott and demonstrations, urged Loeb to settle with the strikers.  On April 16, union leaders and city officials reached an agreement.  The city council passed a resolution recognizing the union.  The contract included union dues check-off, a grievance procedure, and wage increases of 10 cents per hour, starting May 1 and another five cents in September.  Members of AFSCME Local 1733 approved the agreement and unanimously ended their strike.

Labor has now become the new Negro exiled in his own land, living  in “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift“.  But “change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.  And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.  A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.”

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

Labor has now been given that promissory note, that bad check that came back marked “insufficient funds”.  We are now up against a corporate controlled government who uses its’ owned media  to drip from its’ lips the words “interposition” and “nullification”.  But we must still have that hope, that faith, that dream.

Dr. King would want us to honor his memory by continuing the struggle for human dignity, workers’ rights, living wages and social justice everywhere!

Penny McQuaig