Voices of Wisdom

“Those who would destroy or further limit the rights of organized labor - those who would cripple collective bargaining or prevent organization of the unorganized - do a disservice to the cause of democracy.”
“Those who would destroy or further limit the rights of organized labor – those who would cripple collective bargaining or prevent organization of the unorganized – do a disservice to the cause of democracy.”

– President John F. Kennedy, Labor Day, 1960

Polarized opinions on organized labor and unions in our country today often leave newcomers to the forum confused about a subject that should not be so difficult to decipher. When I first started exploring the world of unions, I was sifting through a plethora of information and commentary from both sides championing their respective movements. Drowning among acronyms and legislative terminology that meant nothing to me, with both sides presenting arguments that pulled my morals this way and that, the question came down to this: Who do I really trust?

As a child growing up, the leaders of the country were Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. As a Democrat I usually do not think of the first two as reliable sources of inspiration, and while I usually sided with Clinton’s policies, history has yet to place him as a beloved, all-knowing patriarch. As a child I was taught to follow those who have a reputation of kindness, coupled with the intent to make the lives of others better. Who are the universal voices of wisdom? 

And so I turn farther back in the history books for help. 

My intention with this blog is to show that there has been a recurring theme of support for organized labor from an overwhelming number of iconic and influential figures. These people are known for making bold and eloquent statements that have led me to the conclusion that unions, collective bargaining and the promotion of middle-class wages make this country a better place to live.

My first installment is a quote from the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy.

In a term cut short by his assassination, President Kennedy earned his place as one of the most revered presidents in the history of this country. During his presidential campaign of 1960, less than three months from the election, Kennedy chose to remind the people that organized labor is essential to maintaining that ideal that defined and set apart our country from the very beginning: “democracy.”

Kennedy recognized then that a strong, unionized labor force helps define the United States and all the freedoms and rights it stands for. When I talk about finding the right voice to listen to, to trust, this is what inspires me to take a side.

Today, unions are under attack like never before. This ongoing opposition is the very thing Kennedy warns us about. Union members follow the same proven policy as they did back then: The middle class is the backbone of the American economy, supported by a cohesive labor unit that fights for fair wages and working conditions.

For a transcript of J.F.K’s speech in its entirety: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid`413#axzz1VP5XNdpJ

 

Michael Messina, Managing Editor, Labor 411

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