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Does Sen. Jim DeMint’s Rhetoric Against Government Workers Make them Targets for Extremists?

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ron-mooreGovernment workers witnessed a scene yesterday horrifically reminiscent of the Oklahoma City terrorist attack the last time a Democrat occupied the White House. A suicide attack was launched in Austin, Texas by a man who chose to assault government workers as an expression of his rage against government policies. While it is easy to see this as an act of a deranged individual, it is not unreasonable to consider the role rhetoric against government workers plays in fueling this rage.

When Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) sees a government worker in uniform such as a TSA Officer or U.S. Capitol Police Officer he sees a potential threat. These officers, sworn to protect and serve are potential ‘union bosses’ in his mind and may use the right to collectively bargain as a tool to control security.

TSA officers continue to organize as they serve the American people while they await the fulfillment of President Barack Obama’s promise to permit them collective bargaining rights. Sen. DeMint successfully obstructed the confirmation of Errol Souther as TSA Administrator saying the appointee “has not been forthcoming about whether he’ll give union bosses control of our airport security, which is one of the most important decisions he’ll make as head of the TSA.” While Sen. DeMint may not realize that ‘union bosses’ come out of the workforce and are elected unlike corporate bosses, the recent Supreme Court decision provides millions of reasons to continue to oppose the right to organize.

But what if this rhetoric suggesting that government workers are a threat if they organize puts these workers in danger from anti-government extremists? Terms such as ‘bureaucrats’ are used to dehumanize those who serve the America people each day. It is this dehumanizing rhetoric that makes it easier to morph the person into the policy. Thus an attack on the person becomes an attack on the policy and can be justified in the mind of a terrorist. Sen. DeMint is presumably opposing TSA collective bargaining rights as a fundraising tactic (although he is protected by officers with those rights).

Yesterday that tactic, that hate speech against government workers may have contributed to a tragedy in Austin.

This article originally appeared in the Washington DC Examiner on February 19, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Ron Moore is a freelance writer living in Silver Spring, Maryland with decades of service in the grassroots community as a local union president, union organizer, national AFL-CIO staff, and writer for the A. Philip Randolph Institute. Contact Ron at

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President Reiterates Call for Passage of Employee Free Choice Act; Says Compromise May Be Needed

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President Obama knows the value of unions to the American economy and to American workers. He has forcefully spoken in support of workers organizing to improve their lives and staunchly supported the Employee Free Choice Act. But even a popular president has to count votes. Today he spoke again on the Employee Free Choice Act and while admitting the votes may not be there for passage in its present form, he spoke of the need to reestablished balance to the workplace.

At a town hall meeting today in Rio Rancho, N.M. the President spoke about the bill and the vital role unions play in a strong economy. He said that, “one of the things that I believe in, and if you look at our history, I think it bears this out – even if you’re not a member of a union, you owe something to unions, because a lot of the things that you take for granted as an employee of a company, the idea of overtime and minimum wage and benefits, a whole host of things that you, even if you’re not a member of a union, now take for granted, that happened because unions fought and helped to make employers more accountable.”

In addressing declining union membership he admits that it, “…has declined significantly over the last 30 years. And so the question is why is that? Now part of it, the economy has changed. The culture has changed. There hasn’t been a very friendly politics in Washington when it comes to union membership. But part of it just has to do with the fact that the scales have been tilted to make it really hard to form a union. so a lot of companies, because they want maximum flexibility, they would rather spend a lot of money on consultants and lawyers to prevent a union from forming than they would just going ahead and having the union and then trying to work with, and collectively, allow workers to collectively bargain..

During the last few decades employers have aggressively opposed the right to organize in their workplaces hiring union busting consultants to place obstacles in the way of workers. Current law doesn’t provide ample protection or penalties for employers creating an atmosphere of fear in the workplace.

Obama believes that a solution is at hand. “So there’s a bill called the Employee Free Choice Act that would try to even out the playing field. And what it would essentially say is that if majority of workers at a company want a union, then they can get a union without delay and some of the monkey business that’s done right now to prevent them from having a union.”

Corporate anti-union front groups have advanced an agenda against the right to organize claiming that the bill would tilt the playing field too far in working people’s favor. Obama addresses these concerns and admits that compromises may be needed to ensure passage.

“Now, I want to give the other side of the argument. businesses object to some of the provisions in the Employee free Choice Act because one of the things that’s in there is something called card check where rather than have a secret ballot and organize a big election, you could simply have enough employees, a majority of employees, check a card and that would then form the union. And the employers argue we need to have a secret ballot. I think that there may be areas of compromise to get this bill done.”

In closing his remarks on the bill Obama reiterates his support and asserts that labor law reform will be passed. “I’m supportive of it. But there aren’t enough votes right now in the Senate to get it passed. And what I think we have to do is to find ways in which the core idea of the Employee Free Choice Act is preserved, which is how do we make it easier for people who want to form a union to at least get a vote and have an even playing field. How do we do that? But at the same time get enough votes to pass the bill. That’s what we’re working on right now. I think it’s going to have a chance at passage but there’s still more work to be done.”

About the Author: Ron Moore is a freelance writer living in Silver Spring, Maryland with decades of service in the grassroots community as a local union president, union organizer, national AFL-CIO staff, and writer for the A. Philip Randolph Institute. Contact Ron at

This article originally appeared in the Washington DC Examiner on May 14, 2009. Reprinted with permission of the author.

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President signs Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act: government now respects women and workers

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In a ceremony rich with symbolism, President Barack Obama signed into law The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act on January 29, 2009. In front of a cheering throng who applauded enthusiastically when Ledbetter was introduced, the President said, “This is a wonderful day. It is fitting that the very first bill that I sign is The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act.”

The president described the Act as, “upholding one of this nation’s founding principles that we are all created equal and we each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness.”

The president effusively praised the woman whose fight led to this day. “Lilly Ledbetter did not set out to be a trailblazer or household name. Lilly could have accepted her lot and moved on. But…she decided there was a principle at stake, something worth fighting for. Her fight took us to this day. It is the story of women still earning 78 cents for every dollar men earn. Today in 2009, countless women are still losing countless income….”

He continues, “Signing this bill today sends a clear message that making our economy work is to make sure that it works for everybody. It is not just unfair or illegal, it’s bad for business. Today I sign this bill not just in her honor, but for women who came before; women like my grandmother who worked in a bank…and for my daughters and all those who come after us so that there are no limits to there dreams.”

Ledbetter demonstrates the power of the grassroots to bring change from the bottom up. It is that power that will lead to a similar signing ceremony for the Employee Free Choice Act allowing workers to freely organize to improve their lives.

“This grandmother from Alabama kept fighting because she was thinking about the next generation. This bill is an important step. A simple fix. Thank you Lilly Ledbetter.”

It is not yet time for a “Mission Accomplished” banner, but we are finally moving in the right direction.

About the AuthorRon Moore is a freelance writer living in Silver Spring, Maryland with decades of service in the grassroots community as a local union president, union organizer, national AFL-CIO staff, and writer for the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

This article originally appeared in the Washington DC Examiner on January 29, 2009. Reprinted with permission of the author.

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