It could be dismissed as the kind of meaningless rhetoric that surfaces every four years at the Republican National Convention. Speaker after speaker came to the podium in Tampa to take pot shots at the nation’s labor unions.
This is due in part to the fact that unions contribute heavily to the Democratic Party. Union members in cities all across the nation man Democratic phone banks to get out the vote. Rarely do the unions support a Republican candidate, but it does happen.
Although this is to some degree politics as usual, the remarks made by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in his keynote address deserve attention.
To thunderous applause, Christie said. “They [the Democrats] … believe in pitting unions against teachers, educators against parents and lobbyists against children. They believe in teachers’ unions. We believe in teachers.”
In response, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten wrote, “Christie evidently believes teachers should be seen but not heard — they may be important, but not their views about what they need to help kids.”
In New Jersey and Queens, teachers unions play an important role in the educational system. They have fought to reduce class sizes and make certain that teachers have the books and equipment they need and earn a decent wage.
In a week that we honor the heroes of 9/11, we remind Christie that of the 415 police officers and firefighters killed at the World Trade Center, most were union members. And we assume that of the hundreds who searched through the rubble in the days after the attack, a great many were union members. Some came from Queens and other parts of the city and some came from New Jersey.
We don’t always agree with the unions, but we value the role they have played.
We note that Christie made his anti-union speech five days before Labor Day. It makes one wonder if he understands what this day is all about.
The unions must not be made scapegoats for the nation’s economic crisis. Whoever will be the next president must be prepared to treat the unions with respect and work with them to create jobs and get the nation moving in a positive direction.