It seems every time I turn on the TV or I’m surfing the web, I see a different politician telling me to blame the children of immigrants, black people or Muslims for the growing inequalities we all are facing. Just like bad bosses who divide workers and weaken our unions, the rich and powerful and their political allies are using race-based divide and conquer tactics.
The wealthy elites who want to take away union rights want to divide us based on what someone looks like, where someone comes from, how much money someone earns or whether someone receives support from public safety-net programs.
Why? Because dividing working people at election time benefits the candidates who will support the economic agenda of the rich and powerful. They want to weaken our freedoms and convince our members to vote away their union.
We know that the right to join a union will be at stake this November. We need to elect a labor-friendly governor so that Minnesota doesn’t follow Wisconsin and become a “Right to Work” state.
The leading Republican candidate, former Governor Tim Pawlenty, isn’t talking about that part of his agenda.
Instead, his campaign is sending out anti-immigrant mailings and generating robo-calls charging that “waste and fraud” in state government are allowing non-citizens to receive benefits “like welfare, food stamps, and free health care.”
In 2018, we can’t ignore these messages specifically designed to invoke fear and division. We need to confront those messages head-on and call-out the messengers for what they’re doing.
Instead of hate and fear, Minnesotans want to focus on real solutions for our state and our future.Working people in this state want to focus on coming together and fighting for the future we all deserve: fight together for roads that get us to where we want to go, bridges that don’t fall down, jobs that pay well, the right to negotiate a fair return on our work, schools that nurture our kids, and a dignified retirement for our parents and grandparents.
We know our unions’ strength comes from all of us working together, regardless of whether we are white, black or brown.
In the face of racially-tinged, divisive messages from our foes, leaving out our vision of people coming together across all races leaves our members only hearing one side of the story. We are the best messengers to let all of Minnesota know that to make life better for working people, we need to invest in education, create better-paying jobs, and make healthcare affordable for all Minnesotans — white, black, and brown.
This summer and fall, the MRLF and our affiliated unions will be talking to our fellow union members about what our unions mean to us. As we talk with union members, we must include our vision that counteracts this damaging racial narrative. Building a movement for social and economic justice is the way to win a better future for all Minnesotans.
Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou is president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.(link is external)