Yesterday I talked about Tennessee’s United Campus Workers and began a discussion about why it is so critical for us to organize public employees without collective bargaining in the South. I hope this discussion will grow and spread and spark a real investment in organizing across the South, organizing folks who have the Protection of the First Amendment — freedom of speech, assembly, freedom of association.
Our labor movement and workers need more and more fights for the right to organize and to challenge our historical and terribly destructive inequality. There is real energy in Southern workers. Many lived or grew up in the great Civil Rights Movement. They know the struggle for justice is critical to a better life.
With the great deindustrialization of the last 35 years, our unions lost millions of African-American workers whose parents and grandparents left the peonage and cotton fields of the South for the union jobs in the North. That is a huge part of my own family’s history. We can re-coup that energy, activism, and commitment to collective action and our most reliable electoral allies with a massive organizing campaign of Southern public employees.
Our national political fight is not just about policy, but about salvation of American democracy. It is about the unconscionable wealth and income inequality we face, because of the Republican Tea Party. If the Tea Party thinks it has organization, energy, and intensity they’ve got another thing coming. Let them see organized workers fighting for their kids and grandkids and their own dignity and respect.
We need fights for democracy, fights for justice, fights for a better way of life and standard of living. We can make a big fight across the South — and we must.