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Jeff Biggers

Jeff Biggers

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Gov. Walker and Charlie Sheen: Let Us Now Praise Martin Sheen (And His Work for Unions)

Posted: 03/11/11 02:38 PM ET

Do the reckless anti-union machinations by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker make him the Charlie Sheen of politics?

If only celebrated actor Martin Sheen received the same media exposure as his troubled son Charlie. Never has his long-time work for union rights been more needed in the public and media arenas.

Five months before the statehouse crisis in Madison, Wisconsin awakened our nation to the enduring legacy of union rights, the elder Sheen was walking the picket line with Fairmont Royal York Hotel workers during the Toronto Film Festival.

Invoking his own union membership, Martin Sheen told the hotel workers striking for better contracts and collective bargaining rights to "stick to it like a stamp."


Appearing in Toronto last fall for the premiere of The Way, his son Emilio Estevez's new film on a father-son journey for redemption along the famed Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in northern Spain, Martin Sheen reminded the world of his extraordinary commitment to unions, human rights and a sense of humanity in his younger son Charlie's downward spiral.

"All of us are hungry for some kind of transcendence these days," Sheen told a theatre critic, "just as part of our humanity. We long for something bigger than ourselves and sometimes we get distracted by power or money. Maybe we even take the wrong kind of journey into the worlds of drugs and alcohol."

Let us now praise Martin Sheen for his incredible journey.

Nearly a half century ago, Sheen supported United Farm Worker leader Cesar Chavez and his movement for union rights. In the summer of 1988, Sheen joined Chavez's "Fast for Life" in protest of pesticide poisoning of grape workers and their children.


Last year, Sheen made another PSA for farm workers and union-certified food:


When Congress took up the Employee Free Choice Act debate in 2009, Sheen recorded an ad calling on floundering senators to come to the aid of working people in America and support union rights:


Hello, I'm Martin Sheen, and when I joined my first union in 1961, thirty percent of the American workforce was unionized. Now that number is less than twelve percent.

As CEOs receive massive salaries and bonuses, working families continue to struggle.

A bill in Congress called the Employee Free Choice Act will provide a fair and democratic process for workers to form unions. And that will help build a more just economy.

An economy that promotes families, an economy that values human life and serves everyone, not just the people at the top.

We need laws that protect all workers, especially the most vulnerable:
the people who prepare our food, the people who who care for our children, the people who build our homes.

As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his Tea Party legislature spiral out of control with Charlie Sheen-like defiance, we can only hope the humanity and insight of Martin Sheen will one day prevail.