Bargaining for the USA: Time for a Main Street Contract for the American People
By Rose Ann DeMoro
Executive Director, National Nurses United, AFL-CIO
The ongoing battles in the streets and capitols in Madison, Columbus, Lansing, Indianapolis, and other American cities make it clear that the lines are no longer just drawn, they are exposed.
There are two Americas. One where Wall Street gets bailouts, and another where public schools and safety net programs get slashed.
Where the wealthy elite get tax cuts extended and estate taxes removed, while working people see their retirement plans, health coverage, pay, and bargaining rights gutted. Where people who rob banks go to prison, but bankers who rob people get bonuses and bail outs.
The lesson the uprisings can be heard in the voices ringing out from the hundreds of thousands marching in the snow, sleeping in the Capitols, and jamming the streets.
It wasn't public workers or high school students or single mothers on Medicaid who plundered public treasuries or caused the meltdown on Wall Street. Talk of shared sacrifice is hollow when all the blame and concessions are forced on working families and those who can afford it the least.
The attack on collective bargaining and unions was always part of a larger game for politicians like Scott Walker, other governors, many in Congress, and their legion of corporate sponsors, to escalate the transfer of our nation's wealth and resources to the bankers and the other elites.
Our challenge as a nation - the vast majority of Americans who built this country and strive to sustain it - is to transform the story line of who is to blame for this crisis, and how to solve it. And to change, once and for all, our priorities to become a more just society.
Nurses in particular know this well. Their voices are heard in every community, their social responsibility profound. Their refrain is 'we brought you into the world, now we are going to fight for you, for your quality of life, for your children, for our future.'
It's time for a Main Street Contract for the American People.
Every American should be entitled to:
• Jobs at living wages, with a new national policy based on re-investing in America.
• A good, affordable education.
• Guaranteed healthcare for all.
• A secure retirement, with the ability to retire in dignity.
• Decent shelter and protection from hunger.
• The right to collectively organize.
• A just taxation system where corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share.
• Restoring the promise of our founding - life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.
If it sounds like the Second Bill of Rights envisioned by President Franklin Roosevelt, that's just a reminder of how far we as a nation still have to go, how far our democracy has been hijacked and corrupted, and how imbalanced our priorities have become.
The American people, not Wall Street, deserve their own economic renewal package. It's time to reclaim our country. And we will.