Bobby Kasper: Labor Day reminds us what’s at stake in November

Bobby Kasper

Bobby Kasper

We are at another crossroad. The Minnesota labor movement holds its destiny in its own hands.

In 2012 we ran one of the most successful political programs in the country. We took back the Minnesota House and Senate. We took back seats that our own polling said it was highly unlikely we would win. As unions, we were united because of the urgency of our situation.

The Republicans in the past 50 years have done more damage to workers’ rights than ever was imagined. Time and time again, they try to divide the middle class by trying to polarize us on issues and by taking the focus off of what labor unions are all about.

We need to be vigilant about our cause. We must get involved politically and, most of all, we must organize union members. Like John L. Lewis said, “Let workers organize. Let the toilers assemble. Let their crystallized voice proclaim their injustices and demand their privileges. Let all thoughtful citizens sustain them, for the future of America.”

So I ask you today to get involved with your union. Get involved with your union’s political action. Get involved with your union’s organizing program.

We must and will survive the onslaught of negative union propaganda pushed by ALEC and the Koch brothers. We need to be on the offensive and push for the most patriotic thing there is in America, the preservation of “the American worker.” Former President John F. Kennedy said, “Our unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor.”

We need to get our message out there that labor unions built this country and made us stronger and wealthier. Without the unions, we will become slaves to corporate greed at our own peril.

We have a responsibility to get out there and support our labor-endorsed candidates. We need to commit to political door-knocks, phone banks and jobsite leafletting.

The St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, with its grassroots labor assemblies in Ramsey, Dakota, Washington and Chisago counties, will coordinate the Labor 2014 campaign’s outreach to union voters in the East Metro again this year. We’ve had great success in past years, but our success is always dependent on the support of union volunteers.

I ask you – I implore you – to commit a couple of days each week to our political program. The next two months will determine the leadership in our state for the next four years. As union members, we don’t shy away from hard work, and it’s going to take a lot of hard work to keep Minnesota moving in the right direction this fall.

– Bobby Kasper is president of the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. To volunteer with the RLF’s Labor 2014 program, call 651-222-3787.

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