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Labor Switches Focus

September 5, 2011

I have said over and over in these pages that teachers need to get active, very active, politically.  We need to know who we are voting for and we need to know why.

I have heard little about this in the press, and when I discuss politics with fellow teachers there are just a few who really understand what is going on and what is at stake with regard to who you cast your ballot for.

Enter this article which discusses exactly what I have been talking about.  It is time for teachers to come out in full-force behind candidates who support our kids and support our livelihoods in the classroom:

“We’ve lost 2.9 million jobs to foreign manufacturing in the past 10 years,” United Steelworkers Local 364 president Al Hamby said. “At one point we fought to maintain our benefits with the companies. We still have to do that, but now we have to turn around and through the legislative system we have to fight for our jobs.”

Maintaining manufacturing jobs in the United States, Hamby said, is going to require union members as well as others to take a long hard look at who they are voting for.

“I think instead of going out there and voting with your heart you’ve got to vote with your mind regardless of political party,” he said. “It’s time to sit down and look at voting records. If the way they are voting is hurting your livelihood, it doesn’t matter what party they are, if they are hurting your ability to support your family, then you need to make a change.”

According to 2010 statistics released by the U.S. Department of Labor, Louisiana has one of the lowest union membership rates in the United States with only 4.3 percent of its workers joining the organized labor movement.

Nationally, union membership was 11.9 percent, down from 12.3 percent in 2009. The number of union members declined by 612,000 to 14.7 million.

Among those organized laborers are the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and School Employees. State president Steve Monaghan said the state’s educators must become more involved in the political process, vote in greater numbers, and form alliances with non-traditional partners to have their voices heard.

“You have to mobilize your votes in the legislative races with the idea that there are a number of races that are decided without opposition,” he said. “I see unions moving in the directions of forming what would have been thought of as unnatural coalitions, looking for more friends (with the same views). There has been a change in the country in this regard. The lift is too heavy for any one group.”

The opportunity to influence the political process will present itself on Oct. 22, in the state’s next election.

“If you sit around and listen to politicians today, you are starting to hear them say that we need to create more manufacturing jobs in our country,” Hamby said. “That’s our middle class — the lifeline of our country. When you start shipping those middle class jobs overseas, you end up with big problems.”

Hamby said union membership in Louisiana appears to be stagnant now, but must begin to grow or “the whole country is in a bind.”

“There is nothing wrong with me expecting to be able to pay my bills and raise my family and retire without having to take food stamps and there’s nothing wrong with a company wanting to make a profit,” he said. “But, they can’t do it without us and we can’t do it without them. I hope we can continue to grow. We need to, for everybody’s sake.”

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