Stand With Workers

I am a Jewish Wisconsinite, a member of the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Madison, a public employee and a union member. I have been deeply disappointed that Wisconsin’s Jewish federations are not standing with me as I struggle to preserve (and now restore) my rights (“In Madison, Only Some Jewish Voices Are Heard,” March 18).

Is the right to bargain collectively — a right that Wisconsin public employees have exercised for half a century — really so controversial or such a radical innovation that the boards of the Jewish federations of Madison and Milwaukee must build a consensus to support it?

A recent poll showed that 74% of the public in Wisconsin opposes stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights. Even Ronald Reagan, speaking in support of the Polish Solidarity trade union movement in 1980, declared that “where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost.”

One wonders how long the federation boards would have needed to deliberate before condemning Pharaoh’s oppression of Jewish workers in Egypt. Fortunately, members of the Jewish community are far ahead of the federation boards and are actively supporting the struggle for workers’ rights in Wisconsin.

It was distressing to see the juxtaposition of two articles on the front page of the March 18 Forward. The article on the Triangle fire and the origins of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union showed how Jewish men and women, many of them immigrants, struggled to build a union movement that fought for decent salaries and working conditions and helped to move workers into the middle class (“Union That Grew in the Triangle Fire’s Ashes Is Now Nearly Gone”).

Now 100 years later, the beneficiaries of that effort, the heads of mainstream Jewish organizations in Wisconsin, did not join the massive demonstrations of support for the public workers (many of them Jewish, as you note) and their unions. Perhaps this article should have been placed on the “Backward” page. A shande!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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Stand With Workers

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