By RALPH PALLADINO
As public employees, we have targets on our backs. Right-wingers like President Trump say we are taking from the “job creators,” meaning the 1 percent. They say we have no value and the people receiving the benefits we work hard to provide are freeloaders interested in getting what they describe as “free stuff.”
Fifteen years ago, while attending a union conference in a Washington, D.C., hotel, I wandered into a room where a “think tank” was coming up with ways to destroy unions — especially public employee unions. I picked up a document describing those who work in public service as “leeches.”
Public employees work mainly in life-saving programs such as Food Stamps in SNAP and Medicaid, both of which are in the Human Resources Administration. We also work in public hospitals in NYC Health+Hospitals.
The vast majority of people receiving those benefits are elderly, disabled and children — the most vulnerable. Only 15 percent of those on SNAP are able-bodied, and the majority work in low-wage jobs. The same is true of Medicaid recipients.
The NYPD 911 personnel in Local 1549 are first responders who save lives in emergencies. The 311 Call Center personnel, who we represent, provide valuable information to the public. Other public employees working in the fire and police departments save lives every day.
The rich and powerful, because they are wealthy, don’t care about Medicaid and SNAP, nor the recipients of those benefits. Regarding fire and police services, the rich don’t realize that it is their tax dollars that pay for those services.
They don’t realize that the public pay taxes in order to receive those benefits. Nothing is truly “free.” Those tax dollars are our money and what pays for our salaries and benefits.
Join together and fight back.
History shows that when millions of poor and working people join together with their allies, and build movements, things can change for the better. This was true of the modern-day union movement and the civil rights movement. Last year, we joined together to stop the Trump-Republican Congress from destroying the Affordable Care Act.
The Women’s marches across the country have created a wave of women and other progressives running for and winning legislative positions.
Now we must join together with others and stop the budget attacks that we will see throughout the coming year.
We must vote. If the 1 percent wins, thousands will face losing their jobs, while millions may lose their health care. We need you to be an active part of this battle.
When we fight — we win!
Ralph Palladino is 2nd vice president Clerical-Administrative Employees Local 1549. This editorial appeared in the January-February 2018 issue of Public Employee Press, the official publication of District Council 37, AFSCME, which represents 125,000 municipal workers in New York City.