As the battle in Wisconsin over union rights wages on, it's time the rest of us begin to have an adult conversation about what is truly transpiring. With more and more states suffering skyrocketing budget deficits, there are many who are quick to scapegoat anyone that appears as an easy target. In Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey, New York and elsewhere, some in power would like to place the burden of responsibility on working folks and unions when they were not the ones responsible for the current fiscal situation. And then there are others who will utilize this opportunity to attack anyone that raises a voice against injustice -- as I myself witnessed this week.
Right now in Wisconsin, public laborers and everyday citizens are continuing their vocal opposition to Gov. Scott Walker in the most fundamentally democratic fashion: peacefully protesting. Already conceding to pay cuts and other setbacks the Republican governor has insisted upon, these workers refuse to give up their collective bargaining ability -- and rightfully so. If you strip away the negotiating rights of members, what will be the purpose of unions? And who will speak for the average laborer against corporations that already overwork and underpay them? What voice will the workers of America have in a society where CEOs are often too busy fattening their own pockets instead of preventing rampant unemployment?
We must begin to deal with the reality that there are budget deficits in states across this nation, but these deficits were not caused by workers. Because the situation is so dire now, we can all share in the pain, but it cannot be a one-sided equation. The leaders in Wisconsin cannot call for an end to collective bargaining and lay off workers simultaneously. That kind of bullying is no different than bullying in a schoolyard. If we want to seriously resolve our grave challenges, we must behave like adults and realize that we all will have to make some sacrifices -- not just the most vulnerable among us.
In the days since the demonstrations first arose in Wisconsin and elsewhere, I have been very vocal in my support of unions, our public workers and their rights to organize and negotiate. But in a somewhat predictable fashion, aspects of the right-wing have chosen to call union leaders corrupt, others have inaccurately portrayed them as irresponsible and then there are those who have seized upon this opportunity to attack me.
Last year, when I toured the country at the president's request with former Republican speaker of the house Newt Gingrich to tackle our education crisis, many of the same individuals on the right sang my praises. When I said teachers needed to be held accountable, I was courageous. But now when I stand against universal lay offs, I'm a 'tax cheat' from the very same people.
As I've articulated before -- but apparently have to repeat for some -- National Action Network has resolved any tax discrepancies, and has worked out a payment plan that we will finish before schedule as will be announced at our annual convention in April. In fact, we had just entered into this agreement when I was touring with Newt Gingrich, and no one found it necessary to object then, but clearly we are entrenched in an atmosphere of scapegoating today instead of resolving very real dilemmas like adults aught to. It is, after all, convenient to use labels instead of finding solutions.
Those that are quick to point a finger at others, or place the burden of this calamity on the workers of this nation should perhaps take a hard look in the mirror and ask 'how can I truly help this crisis?'. When you have some honest answers, let the rest of us know. The adults will be waiting at the table.
Follow Rev. Al Sharpton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheRevAl