Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Choking Off The Future

As the funeral services for those killed in last Friday's massacre at Sandy Hook elementary began this week, the multi-faceted problem of gun violence in America highlighted by those deaths is one that we hope won't be forgotten anytime soon.

Not every episode of gun violence focuses on the same parts of the overall problem. Some, like Friday's attack, lead us to concentrate on the issues of gun laws and mental illness. Some draw us to issues of poverty, or heroism.

We've heard many times, from many different people over the last few days, that while the teachers and school officials who died defending their students in Connecticut were heroes, many Americans wish there was a group that would defend them at their workplace, if - God forbid - anything like that would happen again. Which, given our nation's history, it most certainly will.

The shooting deaths of four other students in February of this year, reminded us that there already are multiple organizations in place trying to fight the poverty component of our national gun violence problem. The teachers in Connecticut were all members of one of those groups.

You see, they were all members of the Teachers Union.

Before you groan, and turn away, you need to remember - we've been pointing out the link between poverty and gun violence for years, including in the aftermath of the shootings in Ohio and Washington this past February. That unions are now being squeezed brutally by "right-to-work" (for less) legislation, doesn't change the fact that unions have already been fighting this societal relationship between poverty and gun violence since the beginning of the union movement.

According to an ABC/Washington Post poll this week, after the Connecticut shootings, more Americans are finally seeing those societal issues as key pieces of our gun violence issue.

When the union-backed 'OUR Walmart' group made news within the last month with their attempts to unionize retail workers, one of their key reasons for mobilizing was that as working poor people, they were aiming for better wages and for more time with their families. As crime statistics show, more properly engaged parents more often lead to more well-adjusted young people and adults. Further, if mental health issues do develop in young people, parents who are involved with their children are more likely to notice - the first step to getting treatment.

For those individuals who support efforts like anti-union "right-to-work" (for less) legislation, they are already weakening their community safety net in favor of short-term profit gain for a small group of already wealthy individuals. In effect, those who favor anti-worker policies are Scrooges of the worst kind, squeezing those who are attempting to protect our collective future in exchange for a relatively few more dollars in the short run.

If you don't believe that, think about what the holidays - and especially Christmas - may mean to your family, and how nice it is that many retailers and restaurants close at least one day a year, to allow even their poorest workers to have time with their families.

Now understand that this year, McDonald's is pushing ALL of its franchisees - all 14,000 of them - to keep their stores open on Christmas, just to goose the corporate bottom line, at the sacrifice of American families all over the nation.

If those McDonald's workers had a union working for them, we bet they'd be home with their families on Christmas, spending precious moments with their children - moments that may make the difference down the road between children who believe their parents work hard and care for them, or a young person who believes their parents don't care enough to even spend Christmas Day with their kids.

What's the real cost to America of corporations stealing time from families, that parents rightfully should have to help raise healthier, more well-adjusted children?

Ask the parents of the kids shot dead in gun violence this past year, what price they'd pay to have their children back.

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