A day of infamy in American labor history passed by yesterday, almost as quietly as the original event passed by 30 years ago. On August 5, 1981, President Ronald Reagan authorized the unprecedented termination of every member of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO). 11,000 professional workers were fired from their job, hundreds were thrown in jail, and the men and women who made their livings by keeping the skies of America safe were banned from their their livelihoods. This was all in response to a two-day strike by these workers in an effort to fight for better working conditions. Two days spent exercising their rights as American citizens in the pursuit of safer working conditions cost them their jobs in a time of economic hardship; all so Republicans could directly weaken unions and indirectly weaken their allies in the Democratic Party.
Make no mistake, this was the opening salvo by large corporate interests and their Republican allies in their all-out war on unions. A war meant only to increase corporate profits and weaken the Democratic Party. This was the day that the decline of the middle class in the United States began. Since then, irresponsible, across-the-board deregulation, massive tax cuts for the richest few, and the roll-back of almost every major piece of New Deal era legislation by the Republican Party has turned back the clock on the once growing American middle class. Half a century of pro-labor, pro-middle class, and fundamentally pro-American gains, slowly but surely, disappeared since that infamous day. In some respects, we are still feeling the impact in today’s economic downturn.
We ask all Young Democrats across the country to remember this event and what it represents. While the fighting spirit of the labor movement is alive and well in 2011, it was that summer day in 1981 that contributed to the decline of unions over the past 30 years. That decline in union density has also had an electoral impact on Democrats across the nation, more specifically in many of the places we consider swing states. This is the very reason for today’s GOP attacks on public sector unions in Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere. We simply cannot allow Republicans to repeat history at the expense of a new generation of middle class workers.
We encourage all Young Democrats to join the working men and women of this country in the ongoing fight against the corporate funded Tea Party. Their goal is nothing less than stripping away our fundamental right to organize a union and collectively bargain for quality-of-life sustaining wages and benefits, for safe working conditions, and for equality and dignity for all men and women. Stand up for social justice and join YDA in the fight for a better America.
In addition, get connected to the YDA Labor Caucus to find out more about this and other issues within the labor movement.
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In Solidarity There Is STRENGTH!
Mike Corbett (NY)
YDA Vice President
Rocco Giammaria (PA)
YDA Labor Caucus Chair