Why Tennessee Citizen Action Supports Unions
As we’ve seen in Wisconsin, Americans are standing up to politicians who are launching political attacks on firefighters, teachers, nurses, bus drivers, EMTs and other hardworking people who keep our communities safe. In Tennessee, the new majority in our state legislature is doing the same thing – waging attacks on hardworking Tennesseans and their families by pushing through legislation that will take away the rights of overworked and overwhelmed teachers to negotiate for fair pay and working conditions and take away the voice of thousands of hard working Tennesseans by barring them from participating in the political process.
Below is the statement Tennessee Citizen Action made this morning while standing with SEIU, AFL-CIO, Professional Firefighters, Fraternal Order of Police, United Campus Workers, Tennessee Education Association, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees at a press conference. During the conference we asked the State Legislature to stop attacking hardworking Tennesseans and and instead work to keep our economy going and make our communities better.
Why does Tennessee Citizen Action support labor? I could tell you that it’s because of all the good unions have done for hardworking people everywhere: labor laws that allow going to school and learning to be your child’s number one priority; the eight-hour work day and two day weekend that allow families to spend more quality time together, pensions that allow our senior citizens to live in dignity after working and contributing to society for many decades, and humane working conditions that ensure that historic tragedies like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory disaster never happen again.
But unions do so much more. Unions allows workers to exercise their freedom of speech without fear of attack. Unions allows workers to voice concerns about dangerous policies at the local, state, and national level. Unions allows teachers to speak up for decent working conditions in their classroom. And unions hold large corporations accountable. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say that unions built the middle class in America. But I am going to tell you something new – we NEED unions now because they are going to have to rebuild it once again.
We finally have a new majority in the Tennessee State Legislature, and their first order of business has been to launch an attack on what they see as the biggest threat to our state: Unions that represent Tennessee’s teachers, firefighters, policeman and other hardworking people who live and work here. Their plan is to not only end a teacher’s right to negotiate — a right which has created good jobs and safe workplaces for decades – but to also take away the voice of hard working Tennesseans by barring them from participating in the political process. This is a direct attack on freedom. The freedom of overworked and overwhelmed teachers to negotiate for fair pay and better classroom working conditions. The freedom of laborers and bus drivers to have a voice in their elections. And the freedom of all hardworking Tennesseans to have and join unions.
And they are not shy in telling you this. They have said that they introduced these bills because they believe that “unions are an obstacle to progress.”
We’re here today to state unequivocally that they are the obstacle to progress. In Tennessee and across the country the middle class is shrinking, quality jobs are getting harder to find, and the economy is in dire straits. The bills attacking hardworking Tennesseans do nothing to create quality jobs, they do nothing to fix our state’s economy, nor do they generate needed revenue for Tennessee’s ailing budget. In fact, with over 2000 bills introduced this session, there are only 5 under the heading of “Economic Development.” What kind of “progress” is that?
It’s not progress. Progress would be helping public sector workers improve the effectiveness of their jobs. Progress would be plugging tax loopholes and tax breaks for large corporations. Progress would be a plan – any plan – to bring quality jobs to Tennessee. Progress would be stopping the attack on the bus drivers who safely escort our children to and from school, the police officer protecting our safety, and the workers fixing our roads and bridges, and instead focusing on real priorities – creating quality jobs, boosting our economy, and generating revenue for the state.