O’Brien of Worcester City Council Gets It

“When someone tosses out venom and inaccurate statements, they must be answered,” he said. “This will pass legal muster, I am confident of that. The doomsday scenario that the city will have to pay legal costs is a red herring. The statement that is based on politics is also a red herring. I could care less whether this hurts me politically; I’m more concerned about whether this hurts my moral compass. To me, this is an important first step for this council and this city.” [bold ours]

This said by a city councilman at a meeting of the Worcester city council on which a new Responsible Employer ordinance was voted on this week.  The ordinance will specifically focus on contractor bid jobs for the municipality.  The words reflect a moral courage that we need to see more often.  As Mr O’Brien states, doing the right thing often has nothing to do with getting another vote, opinion polls or the endless chatter of the media.  Instead when one sits in a position of government, with the power to decide on their city’s future, they must consider the residents of that city.  Mr. O’Brien did.

Those who voted against the measure threatened that it wouldn’t stand up to the courts and of course end the world as we know it.

“Before the vote was taken, Mrs. Lukes spoke against it, saying the council would in effect be managing competition for city construction projects by limiting the companies eligible to bid on them to union shops.

She contended that the ordinance will increase the costs of city construction project by 20 percent to 30 percent.

“To what extent does free enterprise exist?” Mrs. Lukes asked. “This is bad for taxpayers, it’s bad for business and it’s bad for this country. This is more of a political decision than anything else.

“We are taking a vote that is going to lose in the courts,” she added. “I expect the courts to throw this out. The taxpayers seem to lose all around in this process.”

Ms. Laken has a point.  As construction company’s practices now do not resemble anything like the union’s and do not favor worker’s interests, yes, they might have some catching up to do.  But, that has to do with prioritizing business strategies.  Unions demand that companies, in exchange for stable, trained and well managed workers, agree to certain sets of standards in their operational priorities.  Sure cost adjustments will be required, but large companies fit to bid on commercial projects generally aren’t going to suffer the small monetary gains in order to possibly reap advantage.

The model that Ms. Laken draws upon as calling unions uncompetitive — which she does when one considers her claim that now that the tables are shifted, the non-union shops no longer have the competitive edge; that edge is based on priorities.  As a municipality that represents all people and must have within its logical interest, the financial welfare of all, then worrying about the bottom lines of businesses is not her business, especially when protecting wealth accumulation of the few over the benefit of the many — the residents she supposedly represents.

Ms. Laken uses the tired and worn-out claim that somehow looking out for the workers will not benefit employers.  Threatening that companies could suffer a 20 -30% loss of business.  While one can certainly dispute the figures,  when Ms. Laken cries about a “free market” to whom shall it be free?  Then one wonders, what interest would a representative of workers in a city have above that of the workers that make up the majority of their electorate?  This begs the question on all levels of the public interest.  Why would any civil servant believe that policies that benefit the few, especially at the expense of the many constitute worthy policies?

When this country has suffered nearly a quarter century under deregulation and now has started to reap its results, how can anyone of reasonable mind continue to support such “free market” ideology, the very ideology that has soiled this democracy.

The issue at dispute in this city council meeting encapsulates the attack on all working people that has caused the erosion of the value of a workday for all from waitresses to teachers, to mechanics to office workers.  Workers have taken on the chin the stagnation of their wages and the simultaneous rises in the cost of living.  Strangled by the false prophet of supply-side, Laffer Curve driven economics that intentionally benefited the chosen few, workers have had enough.

Attempting to claw through by leveraging their lives and hopes of bank offered credit, continuing to have faith in the educational system, taking on debt sometimes larger than a first house mortgage, suffering a pock-marked safety net and an increasingly unavailable healthcare system, workers have had enough.

Then along comes someone in a city council to belly-ache about the businesses.  Along comes a presidential candidate that sneers at the masses like so many ignorant peasants.  Workers have watched and sat quietly at home, thrown out, removed, disposed of, laid waste and left to rot on unemployment checks, as their source of sustenance moves off the continent or into oblivion; a shell of flaking bricks and crumbling mortar.

Workers have struggled alone, in silence, like champs, like martyrs from the most extreme religious sect, long hoping for redemption from something, even if it has no relation to the hell of earth.  Struggled with the pain of cancer eating their bodies, struggled with their bodies screaming in pain, rotting away with no relief.  Turned away by blind bureaucratic bodies designed for profit and not for care, they suffer alone and do not blame the system they grew up to believe in; the system of free enterprise.

They never blame the businesses, protected by petty politicians and plundering plutocrats.  Plutocrats who with the politicians as their soldiers, point the finger back at the worker and tell them, “Find your enemy within, it is not us.”  while they have their hand on the noose on every worker’s neck.  Plutocrats hire those who will work for less so they can profit more and when those not hired express anger, the plutocrats point their finger, “Find your enemy within, its not us.”

And so it is, the man from another country, the weak, the hungry, the jobless, the ones less able to fight back.

Now that has finished as well.  Finally workers have begun to figure out, to learn that all of us together are workers, whether born here, whether a woman or a man. Workers know that the sick were workers too, could be workers in the future.  Workers know the hungry is a worker without a job, the family has workers that need jobs, that need sustenance and when all workers fight together, in unison, against the forces of the plutocrat, the worker wins.

Read the entire article in the News Telegram.

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