Rose Roach: Let’s bring back sanity, fairness and compassion

Rose Roach is executive director of the Minnesota Nurses Association.

Our wealth is being stolen from us. We are being robbed of our opportunity to better our plight. This isn’t some liberal conspiracy “theory” – it’s an actual conspiracy.

Public education is being defunded so only those with money can get a “good” education for their children. The cost of college is so high that only the children of the rich can afford to advance themselves. Wages are being driven down, pitting worker against worker and distracting us from focusing on the real enemy, the boss. Health care is treated like a commodity so only those who can afford it can access it; those who can’t are literally left to die. And the anti-working class industry, from union busting companies to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), has a firm grip on our democracy at all levels of government.

Workers, be they blue collar or white collar, are being relegated to servitude. This isn’t class warfare so much as class emancipation. It is therefore our responsibility, as trade unionists and leaders, to create the path that will bring sanity and fairness, equity and compassion back into our lives. The nurses of the Minnesota Nurses Association offer the following as the necessary stepping stones to building that path.

• Make Wall Street pay. Pass the financial speculation tax on Wall Street transactions to create jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, fund college tuition for our children and address other community needs, such as affordable housing and fighting poverty.

• Demand a fair share of taxes from the rich. End tax cuts for the 1 percent and close corporate tax loopholes.

• Take profit out of health care. Recognize health care as a human right, publicly financed, privately delivered, that puts health care decisions back into the hands of health care professionals.

• Invest in jobs. Corporations and CEOs must stop hoarding bloated profits, stop offshoring and foreign outsourcing – and start hiring again here in America.

• Establish fair, livable wages. Honest pay for honest work, structured so that all can afford at least the basic necessities (housing, food, clothing). Support the Fight For $15 and protect prevailing wage, and fight against all attempts to weaken collective bargaining rights, especially right to work laws and federal regulations that put worker’s rights and safe working conditions at risk.

• Ensure a secure retirement. Provide workers with the ability to retire in dignity.

• Fight to keep public education public. Stop the privatization of our schools through charter schools and vouchers to make sure our students can have an economically viable future. End the attacks on the teaching profession by lessening teacher licensure standards.

• End corporate control of our government. Abolish “corporate personhood” and restore full voting rights to actual people.

• Public financing of campaigns. Get big money out of politics and make elections about representing the people, not the corporations who can afford to buy a politician.

William Douglas, an American jurist and Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, wrote: “As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there’s a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.”

Change is in the air, brothers and sisters. We must not be victims of darkness but beacons of light. Now is not the time to retreat and simply protect what we have. Now is the time to seize upon this incredible moment in history to demonstrate our solidarity with each other, with the masses who are taking to the streets and with the organic uprisings of those fighting against oppression and for economic, social and racial justice. And in that solidarity, we will not only restore the middle class and compress economic inequality, but we will be at the forefront of saving our democracy. Si se puede!

– Rose Roach is executive director of the Minnesota Nurses Association, a union of more than 20,000 health care professionals working in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

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