Turning Moments into Movements

governor scott walkerAFT LOCAL 1360

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka thinks Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker merits a “Mobilizer of the Year award.”

“In your lifetime, have you ever seen this much solidarity? Have you ever seen this much excitement, this much activism?” a happy Trumka recently asked the group Campaign for America’s Future.

He said unions can “thank” Walker for firing up organized labor nationwide. Unions are pumped in Kentucky , where I live.

But here’s the real meat of Trumka’s message:

“As progressives it’s our job – each and every one of us, our job — to transform the outrage and to make this moment a movement.”

Uber-conservatives like Walker are banking on “this moment” remaining only a moment.

Right now, opinion polls look bad for them.

scott walker union-bustingA state judge gummed up the works for Walker by issuing a temporary restraining order blocking implementation of the governor’s union-busting bill.

At the same time, recall campaigns have begun against some of the GOP senators who steamrolled the bill — possibly in violation of Wisconsin ’s open meetings law — while the senate Democrats were in Illinois .

Even so, Walker and his allies are counting on time, which often cools passions, and big bucks from billionaire union-haters like the Koch brothers to see them through.

In addition, Walker and his soul mates are banking on cracks in union solidarity resurfacing sooner or later.

Last November, more than a few union members voted for anti-union Republicans like Walker and Rand Paul, the Bluegrass State ’s new tea party-tilting U.S. senator who is pushing a national right to work law.

Says Steelworker Jeff Wiggins, president of the Paducah-based Western Kentucky Area Council, AFL-CIO: “The fact that so many union members are voting for anti-union candidates all over the country tells me that we need to do a better job of educating our members.

“We’ve got to talk to them, face to face, at work – and 24-7, not just two or three months before an election like we’ve been doing. We’ve got to do it even if they don’t like what we say – even if we get cussed, tomatoed or tarred and feathered or run out of town on a rail.”

He adds: “When you talk to them, you know who they are listening to: Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. They’re getting lies. We’ve got to give them the truth. We’ve got to tell them that what’s happening to unions in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and other states is what happens when they vote for Rush Limbaugh’s candidates and Fox News’ candidates and not candidates endorsed by their unions.”

Wiggins also says it’s time for union officials to stop sidestepping criticism of the tea party in hopes of peeling away some of the faithful.

“The tea party has hated unions all along. They stood with Gov. Walker. The Koch brothers – the tea party bankrollers and puppet masters — helped pay their way.”

Bill Londrigan, Kentucky State AFL-CIO president, has never pulled punches about the tea party.

Says Londrigan: “While some people have attempted to portray the tea party as a populist uprising against the prevailing powers, it is not. The original populist movement of the 1890s supported workers’ rights to organize. The tea party doesn’t. The tea party is out to destroy the union movement.”

He adds: “The tea party is about the law of the jungle – no government to mediate between the power of wealth and corporate influence and the rest of us. The tea party does not believe that you have the right to freely choose a union at your workplace.”

According to Londrigan, the labor movement is a true people’s movement. “It is the glue which binds the civil rights, progressive and interfaith justice movements.”

Berry CraigThus, he says, “it is the responsibility and mission of the labor movement to create and lead our fellow communities in the struggle for workers’ rights and economic justice and to transform the present assault on labor rights into a broader and sustained movement of those opposed to the corporate war on workers and unions.”

Echoing Trumka, Londrigan says organized labor “must capture this moment and spark a broad-based movement capable of transforming the fundamental injustices of our current economic and political systems and recreate the conditions necessary for true democratic change and fair redistribution of the wealth of this nation.”

Berry Craig

Author Spotlight: Berry Craig

Published by the LA Progressive on March 21, 2011
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About Berry Craig

Berry Craig is an emeritus professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance writer. He is a member of American Federation of Teachers Local 1360, the recording secretary for the Western Kentucky Area Council, AFL-CIO, and the author of True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo, Hidden History of Kentucky in the Civil War, Hidden History of Kentucky Soldiers and Hidden History of Western Kentucky. He is a native of Mayfield, Ky., where he lives with his wife of 33 years and their 20-year-old son.