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Sunday, September 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 55.0° F  Partly Cloudy
The Paper
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Stickin' to the union

Well, our cover story forwards a premise that is surely no surprise to anyone - that there is a concerted effort to break the power of unions, not just in Wisconsin but throughout the nation. And it's been going on not just since Scott Walker got elected governor, but for a long period of time. In fact, "Busting Wisconsin's Unions" describes a struggle that has been going on for as long as there's been what could be called labor history, a history that long predates unions.

I will admit to having been raised in a union environment. I can recall the stern portrait of Philip Murray that held a place of honor in my Irish grandmother's living room. I didn't know exactly who Philip Murray was in my young days. He just looked like somebody you didn't mess with.

My grandmother lived in Monongahela, Pa., south of Pittsburgh, in the heart of coal and steel country. Philip Murray was a Scottish immigrant who worked in a coal mine, got fired for punching his boss (who, he believed had shorted him on his wages) and was subsequently kicked out of his house (that the coal company owned). The only ones who stood up for him were his fellow workers, members of the United Mine Workers of America.

Convinced that justice for workers relied on having their own representation, he went to work for the UMWA and was instrumental in forming the United Steelworkers of America. My dad was a steelworker and member of the union for the entirety of his 35-year working career. I, in my earlier days, was a member of the Retail Clerks Association and the International Hod Carriers. (That latter was, probably still is, a union for guys who wield a shovel.)

I'm sorry, but no matter how enlightened the times, or an industry, profess to be, no one can be trusted to protect the back of a working person other than another working person. That's what unions are supposed to do. And the need for that never goes away.

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