From the Desk of the President: A Message for MadisonFriday, February 18, 2011
(National Federation of Federal Employees)
Brothers and Sisters,
What we are seeing this week in Madison, Wisconsin is the beginning of something unlike anything we have seen in generations. Governor Scott Walker, and his anti-union colleagues in the State Senate, have launched what is undoubtedly the first of many attempts by some state governments across the nation to crush the collective voice of their workers. Disguised as a deficit reduction measure, Walker’s cynical ploy is designed to strip workers of their rights to bargain, and break the backs of organized workers across the state.
In protest, men and women, young and old, of all colors and creeds, have taken action in defense of their fundamental right to bargain collectively. This fight is playing out on the grounds of the historic State Capitol, where in just a matter of days this hallowed right may be suddenly and without mercy wrested from the ownership of the people of Wisconsin. This week, tens of thousands of Wisconsinites have stared into the face of state leadership and made it clear that they will not back down nor surrender their rights quietly.
To the people of Wisconsin, and indeed the people of this nation, this fight is about more than just budget deficits; it is about more than just public employees. This protest is about the eternal struggle for human rights that has always existed between the few with power, and the many without.
President James Madison, for whom the city was named, once said that “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
For centuries this struggle has played out across the nation, and for centuries, the single greatest force in the progress of ordinary Americans has been the labor movement. The freedom to join unions has led to many of the cherished benefits we enjoy today: the weekend, the forty hour work week, worker’s compensation, safety and health regulations, and countless more. All of these advances were made by bargaining collectively and taking from those in power what would not be given to us.
Now, Governor Walker is trying to tip the balance of power back into the hands of a privileged few. His proposal, thinly veiled as an essential deficit reduction measure, is nothing more than an outright assault on the rights of the people to form and join unions and to bargain collectively for a better future for themselves and their families.
Brothers and Sisters of Wisconsin, you stand on the front lines of a pivotal moment in the history of freedom and human rights in our nation. You may not know it yet, nor may you desire credit for it, but for working men and women across this great nation, you hold the hope of a better future in your hands. Stand strong and do not blink. If union brothers and sisters do not stand together today, we are doomed to fall apart tomorrow. Know that the members of our union stand with you in solidarity.
William R. Dougan