Why Not Give Up? Here’s Why.

Woe’s me. Woe’s us! Today less than 12 percent of the American workforce is unionized, Obama failed to fight for the Employee Free Choice Act, and the National Labor Relations Board is again about to be down to two members, which will lead to gridlock.

In Wisconsin and Ohio we lost public sector collective bargaining rights in spite of help and support from the Democratic Party, and in New Jersey we lost public sector collective bargaining rights because of the leadership of the Democratic Party.

The economy is going to worsen because our elected leaders are doing everything wrong. Everything wrong! Cutting the public sector instead of growing it. Ignoring climate change instead of embracing the actions that would change directions and would grow the economy as a result. Attacking and cutting our public schools instead of pouring resources into them. Not regulating the banking and finance industry—which is back to reaping record profits, giving out record bonuses, and ripping us all off. Leaving undocumented workers out in the cold while the temperature is dropping precipitously. Not supporting desperately needed national health care.

And let's not forget the elephant in the room—politicians are continuing to support endless war all while pretending that it costs nothing in money, lives, and basic humanity.

So why get up each morning and face another day of the fight? Why not play out the string, get a hobby, and watch “Jersey Shore,” instead of continuing to live one’s life as a part of this grand struggle? Why not . . . give up?

We didn't choose to fight for workers' rights and human rights because it's easy. We didn't make the decision to be union because it's a career. We are part of the fight for labor and human rights because our cause is great and crucial. We take up our task each day against the odds because without this fight, without a living, breathing resistance movement, there will nothing left to the American Dream but a dream.

There Is Resistance

We are proudly fighting back. In Wisconsin, we waged a daily fight against the destruction not only of collective bargaining but of all aspects of the social contract—the destruction of the very idea of the public good. In Ohio, the progressive movement did the impossible, gathering more than a million signatures on a petition to put the question of public sector collective bargaining on the ballot. In these two states, we see our movement at its finest: united, militant, fearless, and joyful. David vs. the Goliath of corporate control and crushing authoritarianism.



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On the East Coast, the Communications Workers and the Electrical Workers just waged the largest strike in years. And just in case anyone thinks that strike was any less a victory because we do not yet have a contract with Verizon, understand that the old contract has been extended indefinitely and for the first time in months, bargaining is actually taking place. Best of all, this strike and the current fight with Verizon have been waged not as organized labor vs. “the company” but as the middle class vs. the poster child for corporate greed.

In New Jersey, although we are still struggling to regain our traction after a horrible betrayal by Democratic leadership, and are facing the conundrum of holding them accountable while staving off Republican zombies, public sector unions are united. Despite a never-ending spew of nastiness by the bully in the statehouse, support for public schools, public school teachers, police officers, firefighters, public workers, and public sector collective bargaining is growing, not shrinking. (We know—we've been polling it!)

Every day, everywhere, a resistance movement is growing. Egypt, Tunisia, Wisconsin, Barcelona. The demand for good jobs is growing. More voices are raised against unbridled corporate power. Students, workers, people with disabilities, people forced to retire—they are speaking out and fighting back against the causes of our falling standard of living. We need to celebrate that resistance and find every opportunity to build it, embrace it, and grow it.

I won't make claims of false hope. This is going to be really hard. It's a fight for freedom and democracy, for roses as well as bread. It is a fight worth waging. Don't give up. Don't hide. Celebrate by fighting back. Resist!

Hetty Rosenstein is the New Jersey area director for CWA District 1. A version of this piece first appeared in BlueJersey.com.