How many times have you heard a colleague say, “I hate politics!”? I’m sure you’ve had the experience when you’re talking to a friend about why they should vote for our endorsed candidate, or for the local referendum, when they blurt out, “Oh, I don’t know—they’re all so crooked!” These responses, and similar ones, can be a real challenge to us as we try to change our workplaces, our communities, and indeed our world, for the better.
In my local, we used to hand out a brochure to new members about our COPE program. It had the subtle title in big, bold letters, “Politics, It Means Your Life.” Yeah, just your life. But the handout actually did a nice job of listing some of the areas we take for granted that are heavily influenced or completely determined by some form of politics. Here are just a few:
State revenue provided to your district, college, university or public agency, and limitations on revenue those entities can raise
Your rights to collectively bargain and to have evaluation or job protections, including union representation and dismissal procedures
Class sizes, textbooks used, and quality of education received
Interest rates you pay
City, county, state, federal and property taxes you pay
Unemployment and Social Security benefits
Our pensions, the amount of them and the age you can get them
Cost of energy for your home and fuel for cars
The quality of the air you breathe
Whether you and your family have health care and its cost
The nutritional value and safety of the food you eat
The effectiveness and safety of the medicines you take
Whether you have parks and libraries
The police and fire protection you have
The quality and safety of your streets
The list goes on, of course. In fact, we seldom pause to take stock of how deeply politics affects every inch of our and our loved ones’ lives, and our daily experience in the world.
When we do think about this reality, I think it’s easier to motivate ourselves and others to be more involved. And it doesn’t mean you have to become the world’s leading climate activist, or your union’s top political officer (although those would be great!). It means we owe it to ourselves and others to spend a little time becoming more educated about the issues and candidates. Your union helps you do that.
In this issue, you’ll find our list of preferred candidates, based on our extensive PAC process that involves hundreds of IFT members. Use it! Share it!
And as we move ahead in this critical year, stay tuned into your union communications. We must pass the Fair Tax for our state to thrive—too much of what we want and depend on hangs in the balance. And there are important local and state elections. Oh, and it’s a presidential year—what many believe to be the most important presidential election in our lifetimes. Is there a better time to volunteer to work a phone bank one evening, or walk for a candidate or the Fair Tax in a neighborhood canvas on one crisp fall morning?
After all, “it means your life.”