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Standing strong together

While the eyes of the nation are on Wisconsin, thanks to Gov. Scott Walker’s attempts to dismantle his state’s public-sector unions, similar attacks on public workers’ collective-bargaining rights are taking place in other states around the country.

"As federal employees, letter carriers might not be directly affected by these attacks," NALC President Fredric V. Rolando said, "but we still stand with our brothers and sisters in the fight to protect all workers’ rights to bargain collectively for a better way of life.

"There’s no denying that states are dealing with budget shortfalls, but these shortfalls stem primarily from the financial crisis, not from the agreements state governments have negotiated with their workers. And the shortfalls should not serve as a pretext for anti-labor politicians to take on the very existence of unions."

In addition to solidarity rallies held throughout the country, nearly 15,000 union activists, including NALC members from throughout the Upper Midwest-plus some from as far away as California-have traveled to Wisconsin’s capital of Madison recently to demonstrate their opposition to Gov. Walker’s proposal.

"As letter carriers, we must remember that an attack on working families is an attack on each of us," Rolando said. "If we don’t stand up and defend ourselves against these attacks, workers in other crafts around the country could find themselves a step closer to losing their own bargaining rights."

In fact, Gov. Walker’s scheme to limit bargaining rights, and his refusal to negotiate for economic concessions, reveal the extreme nature of his agenda. Moreover, he is largely responsible for the financial mess he purports to want to resolve. Until recently, Wisconsin actually had a budget surplus. But in January, Walker pushed through the Wisconsin legislature tax cuts and new spending for his pet projects through the Wisconsin legislature, then followed that up with a wildly overstated description of the extent of Wisconsin’s financial crisis-the one he had just helped create. And now he wants state workers to pay for his mistakes.

On Saturday, carriers from Capitol City Merged Branch 507 in Madison, as well as carriers from other states, joined AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in Madison for a rally in support of protecting workers’ collective bargaining rights.

"I’m happy to see them," retired Branch 507 President Bob Kaspar said. "The NALC stands steadfast with all the other unions, because it’s a matter of defending the rights we’ve all fought for and earned."

Many public-employee unions throughout the country have demonstrated an understanding of their states’ financial situations by offering concessions, but still find themselves up against governors who are more interested in stripping away workers’ collective-bargaining rights than in negotiating with those workers.

"What’s happening in Wisconsin is part of a pattern for what’s happening around the country," Kaspar said.

Taking a page from Wisconsin legislators’ play book, Democrats from the Indiana legislature fled their state to block an effort by Republicans to weaken unions in the Hoosier State.

And in Ohio’s capitol building in Columbus, more than 5,000 union members recently gathered to protest a proposal by Republican Gov. John Kasich to end collective bargaining for state workers.

In the nation’s capital, NALC members joined other union activists for a Feb. 23 solidarity rally outside the Wisconsin governor’s Washington office. Just down the street in the Capitol a week earlier, labor-friendly House members from both parties managed to beat back a measure to defund the National Labor Relations Board—a radical move sought by the most anti-labor members of Congress that would undercut the ability of workers across the country to form unions and to collectively bargain. Had the measure passed, it would have effectively shut down federal oversight of most union representation elections, strikes and unfair labor practices, at least for the duration of this year’s budget.

Meanwhile, public opinion is in our favor. A recent poll by USA Today and Gallup found that found that two-thirds of Americans support preserving bargaining rights for labor unions.

"Union members pride ourselves on compromise and equity, concepts that seem foreign to some states’ leaders," Rolando said. "As the tide turns, I hope these governors will meet our brothers and sisters in the public-sector unions and work toward real solutions to the problems facing their states-solutions that don’t punish working families or take away the right to bargain collectively."