War on the ‘privileged class’

Our Point of View

by MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver

 

June-July 2012

For too many years now, we have been suffering a lot of war.
 

War that maims and kills our nation's service men and women . . . noncombatants and children, too.
 

War in Iraq that may soon end . . . maybe.
 

War in Afghanistan that may never end.
 

War in Syria into which some folks would have us leap because they just can't get enough of war, viscerally speaking. 
 

Closer to home and no less worrisome, wars on immigrants, universal health care, and hardest to fathom, a generic war on women.
 

But I digress. I want to talk about war on the “privileged class.
 
Oh, you think I’m talking about an Occupy This or That war on Wall Street financial barons and self-serving CEOs.
 

But I’m not. That war is a rhetorical diversion from a more insidious and immediate reality.
 

I’m talking about war on you, Mr. and Ms. Montana Public Employee.
 

Be you a teacher or tax collector, parole officer or biologist, faculty or correctional officer, you are at war.
 

The most recent evidence of this war?
 

Now maybe you’re thinking Wisconsin . . . and you wouldn’t be wrong.
 

After 18 months of Governor Scott Walker’s administration, Wisconsin public employees no longer bargain collectively, public school educator salaries have plummeted, and public programs have been privatized wholesale.
 

But why dwell on Wisconsin?

Far closer to glance back at the Republican dominated 2011 Montana state legislature — a legislature that with forethought and malice slapped state employees upside the head, assaulted the teaching profession, and charged hard against old age security.
 
 I know, I know, you have heard me rant on this before . . . but did you get the message?After hiding mountains of available money, the last Republican legislature refused to ratify an extraordinarily modest state employee pay plan even while thousands of state employees doing work that matters suffered a two-year pay freeze.

Without a shred of evidence that Montana teachers are failing to perform, the last Republican legislature attacked teacher tenure, yammering away that school districts should be empowered to summarily dismiss instruction as they see fit.

Had their bill passed, maybe teachers could once again be fired for the company they keep, the political candidates they support, the places of worship they attend, and the kids they don’t suit up and play in basketball.

And in gross emulation of corporate mismanagement and financial greed, the last Republican legislature tried to destroy public employee pensions. Unfortunately, it is now tragically true in America today that as private sector unions fade away fewer and fewer workers enjoy guaranteed pensions upon retirement. End result? Private sector pension envy and fodder for partisan political invective. 

The last Republican legislature resolved to tear down the “privileged class.” You, Mr. and Ms. Public Employee. 
 

Did you get the message? Did you share the message around?
 

Did you vote in the primary?
 

How about your colleagues? Your family? Your next door neighbor?
 

Will you be voting in November?
 

Will you be voting for a state employee pay plan, teacher just cause and due process, and financial comfort in retirement even as folks declaim against you . . . and your union?
 

Yes, your union. Will you be voting for your union, your advocate and your voice at the bargaining table, in the governor’s office, and the state legislature? Without your union, really what next?
 

Did you get the message?
 

If not, is it your plan to elect a 2013 Republican dominated legislature and a Wannabe Walker governor poised to trash the “privileged class”? You!