A message from Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa
Organizing our priorities
Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma not only ravaged our country, they also exposed the scandal of our nation's poverty.
The tragedy in New Orleans was shameful: Needy Americans without adequate food or medicine. Unsanitary living conditions. Underprivileged citizens unable to access medical care. A federal government that was unresponsive to the plight of our nation's poor. And that was before the storm hit.
Ever since Ronald Reagan, so-called "big government" has been demonized.
Tax cuts for the wealthy and a free ride for corporations are religion in Washington. Workers dealing with disappearing jobs, declining wages, no health insurance and a paycheck-to-paycheck existence get pushed aside because they don't contribute big money to political campaigns.
In the wake of the worst disaster in our nation's history, some questions need to be asked and answered.
Do we want a political system that rewards only the wealthy and neglects the working poor?
Is it good for America to have the divide between the upper and lower classes grow greater every year?
Why is national health care treated as a budget issue instead of a matter of human dignity?
Teamsters from across the country are operating trains, driving trucks and delivering supplies as part of the hurricane relief effort. Others are donating food, clothing and volunteering their time. America is at its best when its citizens pull together during times of crisis and despair. And Teamsters have always answered the call when their nation needed them most.
The desire for respect and dignity never changes. As long as working people are underpaid, overworked or otherwise mistreated, there will be a need for a union. I believe the dignity of American workers cannot be exported, privatized or downsized. And I don't believe the government should set up barriers to discourage working Americans from joining a union and improving their lives.
What the government and the people of our great country need is to be better organized. Government needs to better organize its priorities - including its emergency management. And working people need organized labor like never before.
© 2005 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen