#427 – Dick Bernard: I breathe union

Labor Day, I was caught in the magnetic pull of the Minnesota State Fair. It was the last day of the great Minnesota get-together, and I went on a whim. It was my second visit in the Fair’s 12-day run. I have rarely if ever missed a Fair in 46 years in Minnesota.
I’m one of those creatures of habit at the Fair. The Education Building is most always the first stop. And the first stop there is the Education Minnesota – state teachers union – location, which has been at the same prominent place for many years. (Until 1998, it was called “MEA” – the Minnesota Education Association booth.) The two state teacher unions merged in 1998, now also part of AFL-CIO, and so it goes.
I worked for NEA affiliate MEA/Education Minnesota for 27 years, and I know the history very well. The state fair booth is very popular – a must stop for many – because of the free calendars it gives away. Labor Day I happened by the location when the line was not too long, and got my picture taken (here it is, this year: EdMinnCalendar2011002.)
There was a time in the early 1980s when MEA was considering giving up the space because it was expensive and of uncertain value. When the free calendar idea was first tried in the late 1990s, that too was a risky financial proposition. But both traditions continue.
Today, I would venture a guess that nobody at Education Minnesota considers dropping either. The space is a positive magnet for thousands of visitors.
These days, of course, “union” is used as an epithet by those who feel labor should not organize.
I spent well over 30 years active in the organized public school teacher movement. Most of that time my employer was called “Association”; at the end of my career, it was called “Union” (there is no operative distinction between the two words, nor in what we did and do, which was to represent the interests of hard-working people who cared deeply about their profession, their occupation.)
What pains me most, now, is that some of the anti-Union, anti-Obama hate mail that comes my way through those disgusting ‘forwards’ comes from people who have directly benefited by the efforts of Unions over the years, including my own. To borrow the words of Diercks Bentley’s popular country-western song: “what are they thinkin’?”

The tycoons who are bankrolling the bust government, bust the union gig have to be laughing up a storm. Best that we learn exactly who the enemy really is, and it is NOT the unions.
A shadowy segment of the fat cats is the bunch committed to use the middle class to destroy the Middle Class.
No, I can’t prove that, though the above referenced link is pretty strong evidence of who is bankrolling what these days.
During the recent extremely expensive Wisconsin Recall election across the river from me, one of the most common ads against the Democrat challenger Shelly Moore was her fire-breathing comment “We breathe union“. She was made to appear as a thug when in reality she was a laid off teacher and local teacher union leader. Of course, her comment was only part of what she actually said (Scroll to the last paragraph of the article. The videos are no longer on line.) The anti-Moore ad was not a locally produced Mom and Pop anti-union ad.
So, did Moore say what she was quoted as saying? Yes. Was her quote fairly used? No. It was intended to mislead and to incite anger against Unions.
I applaud Shelly Moore for her comment.
And, yes, I breathe union, and have breathed union since I first became actively involved about 1968.
And we in the body politic had best pay very close attention to who we are listening to and who we are supporting in coming days and months towards election 2012.

1 reply
  1. Candace
    Candace says:

    Dick, thanks for articulating the reality of the situation and for reminding us of the great calendars that Education Minnesota shares with fair participants.


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