Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Council Sends Support to Wisconsin

Pittsburgh City Council has taken up the cause of the mass of protesting union members in Wisconsin. Council passed a resolution this morning proclaiming today, “Service Workers Day” in Pittsburgh. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has proposed legislation that would eliminate collective bargaining rights for state workers for any benefits other than base pay. It would also prevent state and local governments from automatically collecting union dues.

Resolution sponsor Natalia Rudiak says the governor is stripping the workers of their fundamental rights and in the process he is shattering the middle class. “It is a bridge too far, it is a reactionary agenda that will endanger the livelihoods of thousands of working Americans and it must be stopped before this type of thinking endangers the livelihood of millions,” says Rudiak. The resolution praises union workers in the city and recognizes their work in keeping the city and the region running.

“Workers rights are not a budget line item,” says Council Member Bruce Kraus, “you cannot just wipe away with the stroke of a pen decades and decades of work that has stabilized a middle class.” Kraus says the middle class is essential to the health and wellbeing of the nation.

In a news conference before Council’s meeting, Allegheny County Labor Council President Jack Shea jumped onto the same theme, saying this is not just an issue of concern to union members; it is an issue of concern for all workers. “Everybody knows when unions are able to bargain a fair and a decent contract and conditions of employment, it gets passed on to the non-union workforce,” says Shea.

Last week, Democrats in Wisconsin's state Senate walked out rather than vote on the bill. They fled to Illinois and other boarding states to keep from being forced back into the chamber. “We support your heroic effort to protect the futures of so many working families,” says Rudiak, “we know that you cannot go home so if you need a gathering place in your struggle to protect workers rights you are welcome to come to Pittsburgh.”

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