Commentary: Unite in support of organized labor

"The Wealth of the Nation" by Seymour Fogel. Image courtesy of Voice of America
“The Wealth of the Nation” by Seymour Fogel. Image courtesy of Voice of America

By Todd Peplow
For The Cordova Times

I’m Todd Peplow, a Labor Conservative. While some issues are clearly more partisan than others, one often confused issue stands out. Believe it or not that is Labor. I’ve based my stance on my individual responsibility for informed decision making, and I hope you will too, whether you’re a union member, an elected official or the public.

At its root, Labor emerged as an issue focused on balance. That meant fairness for workers and employers. Labor promoted self-reliance and individual responsibility. The employer and worker were to recognize each other’s rights so both could prosper. Unions provided the best trained workers in the world and held them to a high standard. Employers noticed and they liked it. Under balanced collective bargaining, they agreed to pay what our work was worth, and union members provided work worth paying for. Hence the growth of the middle class, with champions and bad actors on both sides. The champions gave us our Union Pride.

We’ve worked hard for Alaska. We’ve fought against extreme conditions, and simply wanted to share in the prosperity. Alaska enjoyed an abundance of funds and available workforce during the pipeline days, and our most conservative elected officials supported organized labor. They understood our value and showed it by supporting us.

What’s in a name? Progressive, Conservative, Liberal, Democrat, Republican, Independent, Non-Partisan, Green, Constitutionalist, Stand for Salmon or Stand for Alaska: each label can be misinterpreted or misidentified. If you think to be conservative you have to hate unions, you have been manipulated. For those who are willing to educate themselves and move beyond reflex and stop adopting positions based on hearsay. Your reward is credibility.

Tell me what you think your party stands for. Unions were once founded on the principles of: self-reliance, fairness, accountability and a prosperous middle class. That prosperity was win-win rather than win-lose. It meant fairness on all sides. It meant finding the best path forward for workers and the employer.

Workers deserve fairness in compensation, working conditions, and the work they are asked to do. Employers need a competent workforce and an ability to make a profit. Our communities ideally thrive under well-negotiated agreements.

As Americans, we’ve seen scandal plagued corporations, lending institutions, technology, ministries, charities, elected and appointed officials, political parties, and even unions. When institutions are “off mission,” get involved. Too many today are advocating to quit your party or quit your union. They are not mutually exclusive, and never were.  

Those bashing union members need to be educated. Laborers fit into any party, and we bring value. If someone tells you supporting Unions doesn’t fit with conservative values, they need an education. Ronald Reagan said: “Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost. (Sept. 1, 1980).”  Conversely, it was Adolph Hitler who stated: “We must close union offices, confiscate their money, and put their leaders in prison. We must reduce workers’ salaries and take away their right to strike. (May 2, 1933)”

I supported President Donald Trump, Gov. Mike Dunleavy and many other candidates I thought would support and defend my Constitutional Rights, including my right to freely assemble and associate. Many other union members did too.

It’s not true that union members or even union bosses only support “liberals.” When I support someone, I don’t expect blind loyalty, just a fair shake. 

Union folks are realizing that democrats who are anti-development and high spend haven’t supported jobs. That was the focus in their support for Trump. Republicans need to realize that union members who align with their values also need to be supported by them. That means supporting jobs and honoring contracts. It means being bold enough to recognize our right to free speech and assembly.  

Don’t let yourself be manipulated by party bullies who have another agenda. Stand up for working people and we’ll stand up for you. If you can’t do that, we’ll find someone else.

The Attorney General is telling union members they are forfeiting their first amendment rights by belonging to a union. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am giving the union permission to represent me and speak for me, and that is not in any way restricting my own rights to speak. As proven by this op-ed.

Members of organized labor deserve to be recognized for the value we bring to our communities. It’s time for parties to unify in support of Labor and leave their fighting for the naturally divisive issues.

Todd Peplow is the executive board president of Public Employees Local 71.