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April 2015

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A Shrunken Dream

Four years after Wisconsin gutted public workers' ability to bargain collectively, the state became the 25th in the nation to pass so-called right-to-work legislation.

The law was passed with the same old promises of jobs that never come and flowery appeals to freedom. We've seen these old familiar lies before, starting with the biggest lie: what right-to-work does. It doesn't free a single worker to skip paying dues to a union they disagree with. That's been the law since 1947. Right-to-work laws force unions to negotiate for and legally represent people who pay nothing to maintain the union.

It is especially galling that the vote came just after Gov. Scott Walker compared the peaceful protest of his state's teachers, secretaries and attorneys to the campaign of torture and murder waged by the barbarians of ISIS. But the insult pales in comparison to the real damage his actions will cause.

Walker believes bravely beating down Wisconsin's working moms and dads armed with nothing but his own courage and all the resources corporate America can muster are his path to the White House. He likes to think of himself as Ronald Reagan resurrected.

Back in 1981, when Reagan decertified the Air Traffic Controllers union, maybe it could have been said that the labor movement wasn't ready for what was coming. As bad as Reagan's policies towards unions were, at least he had the decency to acknowledge in a December 1981 speech that union membership was "one of the most elemental human rights."

We know what we're up against now. And while unions may not have the strength we had 40 years ago, we have an advantage we didn't have then: a record of wage stagnation, unemployment, financial crises and bank bailouts. They've shrunk the American dream down to a carrot dangling on a stick and a lapel pin with the word freedom on it.

We have our eyes open, and more Americans every day are telling pollsters they wish they had a union to bargain for them, free from the interference of the likes of Scott Walker.

Election Day 2016 is less than two years away. We have a lot of work to do. Let's show America what tough really looks like.


Also: Hill: Tomorrow is Here Read Hill's Column

Salvatore J. Chilia

Salvatore J. Chilia
International Secretary-Treasurer