Virginia Groups Stand in Solidarity with Wisconsin Workers and Tell Governor McDonnell:
“Governor Walker is Not to Be Commended for Suppressing Workers’ Rights”
In Letter Sent to Governor McDonnell, Groups Express Disappointment With McDonnell’s Expressed Support of Governor Scott Walker’s Anti-Worker Actions
Richmond, VA–Following Governor Bob McDonnell’s video address last Friday in which he expressed his support for Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Virginia groups have joined together to show their solidarity with the people of Wisconsin. A diverse group of labor and non-profit organizations sent a letter to Governor McDonnell Wednesday morning expressing solidarity with those protesting in Wisconsin and highlighting that Governor Walker is not to be commended for using his state’s budget struggles as an excuse to suppress workers’ rights.
The letter noted that public sector workers in Wisconsin have ceded the concessions asked by Governor Walker, yet they are still being asked to give up their right to collective bargaining. While many of Walker’s supporters blame organized public sector workers for the state’s budget woes, the groups signing the letter to Governor McDonnell note that Virginia, a long time right-to-work state, has experienced the same budget problems as states with strong public sector unions like Wisconsin. The letter implored Governor McDonnell to make pragmatic, not political, budget choices.
“The struggle of Egypt, and subsequent Middle Eastern states, has transcended borders and politics, garnering the support of all but few,” said Sandra Cook, Chairperson of Virginia Organizing. “Now, the working people of Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio are raising their voices with the world watching, and we must show them the same support. We are embarrassed that our Governor, Bob McDonnell, would support Governor Walker’s shameful actions and would oppose the hardworking nurses, firefighters and teachers that keep our nation going.”
“This is a political strategy and an attack on labor unions across the country. We are either going to work together and make history or the labor movement is going to be history. Are we going to settle and allow corporate lobbyist and big business to continue to make bad decisions, or are we going to take our country back?” said Chris Lance, President of CWA/National Coalition of Public Safety Officers Local 2201.
“We would describe those who are fighting for better wages and benefits, jobs security and safer work places as courageous and brave, not Governor Walker who is trying to deny workers their rights,” said Doris Crouse-Mays, President of the Virginia AFL-CIO.
“The same powerful corporate interests and their political allies who pressing to undermine workers’ rights are attempting to roll back environmental protections as well,” said Glen Besa, Virginia Director for the Sierra Club. “Unions built and protect a strong middle class in America, and it is the middle class that has the political clout to demand our water and air be protected.”
“Like other public education advocates around the country, we’re shocked by the extreme lengths that Governor Walker is going to in his effort to attack public employees and their families. Walker is using tough financial times as an excuse to attack public employees who have won the right to collectively bargain,” said Dr. Kitty Boitnott, VEA President. “Under his proposal, public school teachers and support staff would lose their ability to negotiate the critical aspects of their work lives. His plan would make it impossible for educators to have a voice in class size, curriculum, or school quality. Any attack on teachers’ working conditions is likely to have a negative effect on students as well.”
The following letter was delivered to the governor’s office on Wednesday morning:
February 23, 2011
Dear Governor McDonnell;
We are deeply concerned about your expressed support for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as he fights against workers’ rights and abuses his authority by striking a blow against all working people in Wisconsin. In your video address last Friday, you stated that the actions taken by Governor Walker are simply a matter of course and that asking public sector workers to “do more with less” is a means to “get Wisconsin’s fiscal house in order.” This assessment obscures the real issue at hand in Wisconsin: Governor Walker is unscrupulously using the budget crisis as an opportunity to push forward an anti-organized labor agenda.
Blaming public sector workers for budget problems caused by the worst economic downturn in decades is a shortsighted, misguided approach at best and opportunistic and autocratic at worst. Public sector workers in Wisconsin have made the concessions to pensions and health care benefits that the Governor has requested. The firefighters, teachers and nurses that are filing into the Capitol building by the thousands have, in fact, agreed to “do more with less.”
The problem is that Governor Walker is not bargaining in good faith. He has made it abundantly clear that this is an ideological crusade against working people and their right to bargain collectively, not simply an exercise in fiscal discipline. Governor Walker’s exploitation of Wisconsin’s economic instability for political purposes is shameful. In the struggles of his constituents, Governor Walker sees political opportunity. From 950 miles away in Virginia, we see Governor Walker prioritizing corporate interests over the interests of residents and communities.
For the last several years, states across the nation — with Democratic and Republican Governors alike — have made incredibly difficult budget decisions. The Commonwealth of Virginia is no exception. In fact, as a right-to-work state, Virginia’s budget has faired no better than those with strong public sector unions like Wisconsin. Although we accept that difficult times require difficult choices, Virginians are simply not buying the “blame the public sector workers” mentality. As organizations, we see our members and supporters suffering from several years of drastic budget cuts. We hold in good faith that our elected officials in the Commonwealth will make pragmatic budget choices and will not use our health, safety and education as bargaining chips to further a political agenda.
We stand in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of firefighters, teachers, nurses and police officers protesting in the Capitol buildings of Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana. These working men and women deserve our respect and support for continuing to fight for the American dream.
Central Virginia Chapter A.P.R.I.
Central Virginia Labor Federation
Communications Workers of America Virginia State Council
CWA Local 2204
Eastern Virginia Labor Federation
IUE-CWA Local 82161
National Coalition of Public Safety Officers
Northern Virginia Labor Federation
Richmond Jobs with Justice
Richmond Peace Education Center
SEIU Local 5
SEIU Local 32BJ
Sierra Club Virginia Chapter
Tenants and Workers United
Virginia Association of Personal Care Assistants
Virginia Education Association
Virginia New Majority
Virginia Professional Fire Fighters, IAFF
Virginia State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Voice of Vietnamese Americans
Western Virginia Labor Federation
Workers’ Justice Center