Union Leaders: Election Vital to Workers' Rights


October 2012


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Click HERE to view photos from the 2012 SIUNA convention.


Arguing the stakes for the labor movement couldn’t be higher, a pair of Maryland union leaders urged delegates at the 2012 SIUNA convention to take an active role in November’s election.


“Our union movement is at a crossroads,” said Maryland and District of Columbia (D.C.) AFL-CIO President Fred Mason as he spoke Sept. 12 at the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education in Piney Point, Md. “There are forces out there that literally want to kill our movement.”


Those forces, emboldened by the anti-worker tactics of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and others, have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the campaign of Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney. If Romney and his running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan win, Metropolitan Baltimore AFL-CIO President Ernie Grecco said in his speech Sept. 11, the rights of workers would be threatened nationwide.


“These two candidates are some of the worst we’ve ever had to face,” Grecco said, referring to Romney and Ryan’s support of so-called right-to-work laws and other anti-worker measures. “They’re out to get us.”


While both Grecco and Mason acknowledged President Barack Obama’s term has not been perfect, they agreed that a Romney victory would be devastating to working people and the labor movement. They called on the delegates to reach out to friends, families and fellow members to ensure that doesn’t happen.


“It’s up to us to spread the word,” Mason said. “The choices for American workers are very clear.”


Grecco said it was vital for members to ensure everyone around them had all the facts. Workers need to know, he added, that a Romney presidency would strike a blow against fair wages and collective bargaining.


“If you are a construction worker and you vote for Romney, something is wrong. If you are a teacher or a firefighter and you vote for Romney something is drastically wrong,” Grecco said. “We know a lot of our members are going to vote … Republican. The thing is, they don’t know all the facts.”


The good news, Mason said, is the attacks against unions and collective bargaining have put those issues at the forefront of national politics.


“The public debates that are happening on the heels of these attacks really helped to educate people on why collective bargaining exists,” he said. “Communities that have strong unions or a strong union workforce enjoy greater productivity and a higher standard of living. We have to capitalize on these discussions about unions and explain to folks what it means to be a union member.”


Grecco also called on delegates to reach out to and volunteer for pro-worker campaigns.


“We don’t want to take anything for granted. We have to work for these individuals,” he said. “We don’t want to wake up the day after the election and have so many of our friends who had good (pro-union) voting records go down.”


The stakes, Mason said, are simply too high.


“Our future is at stake. Our children’s future is at stake,” Mason said. “If we don’t succeed in preserving that, the conditions will get worse. Talk about high unemployment now – it will get worse.”

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