OPINION: The Republican Party is bad for our health

Democracy needs unions

By DAVID FALLICK

When the pandemic started, then-Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) championed a law preventing companies from being sued for failure to protect their employees from the Coronavirus. The week of April 4, I heard Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), on C-SPAN radio stating we should not spend money on protecting people from the virus. She said that we should not plan for any future virus emergency.

Senator Bill Cassidy, (R-La.), and 12 other Republican senators apparently think public schools should have been open during the whole pandemic (while closing them actually saved people’s health and lives) and blame teachers unions for them being closed, according to a press release issued April 6.

DO YOU WANT THESE PEOPLE BACK IN THE MAJORITY?
Do you want people like this, who are indifferent to our health and who vilify unions, to be back in the majority? The Republican Party as a whole does not want to protect us. They seem more than happy to have us suffer.

Republican legislators are against OSHA rules to protect us at work, against making employers responsible for protecting us at work, against providing the funding that we really need to deal with the pandemic, and against providing funding to other countries so that their people can be protected and so that we can finally end this pandemic.

The Republican Party is bad for our health. Literally! And not just regarding the virus, but also regarding other threats to our health, such as climate change and the resultant worsening allergy seasons and increasing ranges of disease vectors and pollution in general and its health consequences.

VOTING RIGHTS AND OUR HEALTH
All these things endanger our health and Republicans refuse to act on them, and they block such action as much as they can. Which is a huge reason –– out of many –– that Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have to get it together and agree to lift the filibuster for two particular bills that are essential for our health, welfare, and safety: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

VOTERS SUPPRESSION
What is the relation between our health and voting rights? Republicans in states around the country have passed laws to prevent people who usually do not vote Republican from voting. The term is voter suppression. And they have also gerrymandered a lock on House seats. So, with these laws and gerrymandered maps, they are legislating their way to electoral victory and a hold on power. Not by having the best ideas, policies and appeal and by winning in fair and square elections in which all eligible voters have unhindered access to the ballot, but by literally legally making it as difficult as possible for millions of our fellow citizens to vote.

That’s right. Here in the U.S. of A.

It’s 2022, and Republicans all over the country are emulating Jim Crow as it was in Mississippi in 1964. They gain more power from it and then there goes all efforts to protect our health and safety out the window, even being able to vote in a safe way during the pandemic. Safety from the virus and other dangers means safety at work. So this is also an incredibly significant issue for Labor and unions, too.

If we want to be healthy and safe at work, we need politicians who want us to be healthy and safe at work too. It is clear that these politicians are not the Republicans. That means we have to protect the right to vote for everybody so we can elect candidates and have legislative majorities who have workers’ healthy and safe at heart. That also means electing pro-union candidates. And, as we know, those Republicans against voting rights for all are also against unions.

VOTING RIGHTS AND UNIONS
What else pertains to working people and unions if voter suppression continues to be allowed to stand and elections are, therefore, thrown the Republicans’ way?

  • The Protect the Right to Organize Act will not be passed.
  • More states will be able to crush public-sector unions, like Wisconsin did, and continue to deny unionized public school teachers and college professors the right to strike, as is the case in more than one state.
  • OSHA will not be able to effectively protect workers.
  • The federal minimum wage will not be raised.
  • More anti-labor and anti-voting rights nominees will be put on courts to overturn lower-court rulings in favor of voting rights and rulings in favor of unions, as the Supreme Court did just recently by overruling a lower court’s decision that the new redistricting in Alabama is discriminatory against Blacks.
  • Voter suppression also means that there will be no reelection in 2024 of President Joe Biden, who publicly, vocally, and by his actions supports unions and encourages unionization.
  • It means, starting next year, for the second two years of his term, there will be no majority support in Congress for him and his pro-worker policies. (On this point, it is important to remember too that it was a Republican president who smashed the air traffic controllers’ union and that the most recent Republican president set out to destroy the American Federation of Government Employees.)

UNION MEMBERS CAN CHANGE THIS
We – each one of us 13 million union members in the U.S. – need to be all-in and very active in getting the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act passed. All 100 senators need to hear from their constituents that they want them to vote for these voting rights bills. That includes the 50 Republican senators who voted against them and Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema who voted against allowing these bills to pass with a simple majority. Of course, the 48 senators who voted for the filibuster change need to continue to hear from us as well.

The Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will override the voter suppression laws and gerrymandering, and the right to vote will be respected and protected once again.

However, our action cannot stop at calling our senators. We must also get involved in local efforts to challenge and repeal the voter suppression laws and help people make sure that they are registered and able to vote in the face of these laws. Each one of us needs to volunteer with voting rights groups working in the states where we reside. Thirteen million is not a small number. A group that large working to secure the right to vote can make a difference. And we need to start now and effect positive change before the midterm election.

THE CHOICE BEFORE US
So, here is the choice:

1) Ever-increasing attacks by legislative majorities on the right to unionize and on worker well-being, and ever-increasing health problems from worsening climate change; or

2) Thirteen million union members (each one of us) act now to support voting rights. The Senate switchboard number is 202-224-3121.

Call your senators now and then get five other people to call. If you live in a voter-suppression state, call your governor and state legislators and tell them that you want the voter suppression laws repealed. Then find voting rights groups in your state to volunteer with.

Thirteen million. Definitely stronger than the feeble strength of one. Our health and safety at work, our democracy, and our right to unionize need us now. Right now. Get started.

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