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WV AFL-CIO: Don’t Demonize Wisconsin Public Employees


Monday, February 28, 2011   

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Across the country and here in West Virginia, thousands of people turned out over the weekend in support of Wisconsin public employees. Minority Democrats in the state Senate there are trying to stop a bill that already passed the Assembly and would take away most collective bargaining rights. Union officials here say that bill is part of an ugly pattern.

West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue says the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs and the economic problems that started on Wall Street make it easy for some people to demonize the unions.

"I've seen it here, quite often. States like Wisconsin, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, the easiest thing to do is blame the worker."

Wisconsin's governor says he's just trying to balance the budget. But Perdue says when the unions offered to take pay cuts to help with the budget, the governor refused to negotiate.

"They saw that the state was in some trouble, and they were willing to step up. But his sole objective was to blame the public employees and the teachers. And then put the target on their back and go after them."

Perdue says collective bargaining is a basic issue of fairness for workers in what are often unequal situations.

"It may be from a supervisor, and it could be on the work site, it could be safety conditions at a mine. They just want some representation."

Conservatives say public employees are responsible for Wisconsin's budget problems. But Perdue says their attacks are untrue, and often mean-spirited. He cites the example of an Indiana assistant attorney general who lost his job after writing that live ammunition should be used against the union protesters.

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