‘Corporate welfare killing us,’ union VP says

OLYMPIA — Working people are tired of being scapegoated for an economic crisis caused by Wall Street and its political allies, a top Machinists Union official said.

“Corporate welfare is what’s killing us,” said Gary Allen, the general vice president of the union’s Western Territories. “They try to tell us that it’s a teachers’ dental plan that is bankrupting the state, or the fact that people who put their lives on the line deserve a living wage. Well, I got a news flash for them: nobody’s buying it, and we’re tied of being lied to.”

Allen was one of the speakers at the “We Are One” rally April 8 on the steps of Washington’s Capitol in Olympia. A pro-labor crowd estimated at around 10,000 people turned out to protest against drastic cuts to state programs that help the poor and middle class families, while also calling for the elimination of tax loopholes for non-essential industries, which take money out of the state treasury that could otherwise be used to offset layoffs and wage cuts for state employees.

Conservative politicians talk about “shared sacrifices,” but the only ones being forced to sacrifice are working families, Allen said.

“This is like having the worst job in the circus — cleaning up after the elephant,” he said. “We didn’t create this mess, and we are tired of being blamed for it.”

Allen struck back at those who villainize public employees, saying “the hard-working people who provide services through our cities, counties, state and federal agencies are doing a great job. They are public servants, not public enemies.

“Everyone here benefits from the work of public employees,” he continued. “Teachers, police, road maintenance, building inspection and thousands of other occupations — they all work to make our communities better and safer.”

Unions and their allies are “only calling for fairness,” Allen said. “We didn’t get any of the trillions that were stolen or handed out in bonuses or bailouts.”

But the cuts proposed by the Washington Legislature — and similar legislatures nationwide — will steal the future away from generations too young to speak out today, he added. “It’s our children and grandchildren who are being sacrificed at the altar of greed and it has to stop.”

He called on labor advocates and progressives to “answer the call to protect the American Dream,” adding that “‘liberty and justice for all’ is not just a cute slogan — it’s a call to action.”

Allen was joined on the stage for his speech by officers of Machinists Union District Lodges 160 and 751, both based on Seattle. More than 300 Machinists joined Allen at the rally to show their support for their fellow union members who are public employees, including nearly a dozen who traveled five hours from Spokane to be at the rally.

Before the rally, District 751 President Tom Wroblewski urged members of his unions to support public employees, and fight back against union-busting efforts nationwide.

“Working people are working people, whether you’re a (Boeing) machine operator in Auburn or a (city) building inspector in Woodinville,” Wroblewski told Machinists. “If these union-busting politicians are successful in stripping away the rights of public sector workers today, you can be sure they’ll team up with their corporate campaign donors to do the same for private sector workers tomorrow.”

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents nearly 27,000 working men and women at 44 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. In 2010, District 751 members ratified new contracts with 22 of those employers, without a single workday lost to strikes.

Follow our latest tweets at http://twitter.com/IAM751

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  1. […] 8 “We Are One” rally, which drew 10,000 people to Olympia; Machinists General Vice President Gary Allen spoke at the rally, telling the crowd “corporate welfare is what’s killing us” and adding that “’liberty and […]

  2. […] report on members from Local 86 in Spokane and Local 1951 in Richland who took part in the “We Are One” rally in Olympia on April […]

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