It was Sun Tzu in the sixth century B.C. who made famous the proverb, “If you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” This is still good advice for union members as we work to overturn SB5 and other legislation here in Ohio. While the turn of events here and other places across the country may have shocked America, it is important to know that Republicans have been working towards this agenda for quite awhile. It is time for us to get to know our enemy if we want to take back our state and move it forward.
Recently, several university professors, favorable to organized labor, have been receiving records requests from conservative, right-wing Republican organizations including the Republican Party, under the Freedom of Information Act, to see their email and other written materials and research. Dr. William Cronin, a history professor, from the University of Wisconsin was alarmed by the request from the Wisconsin Republican Party after he had written an op-ed piece for the New York Times criticizing Governor Scott Walker.
The roots of this current extremism stem from groups like the John Birch Society, founded in California in the late 1950s, (but ironically, now headquartered in Wisconsin,) from the defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964, and from the ideas from think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Free Congress Foundation and the Moral Majority, all founded by Paul Weyrich. (For more information on the John Birchers and other conservative groups go to www.sourcewatch.org or www.rightwingwatch.org) The Southern Poverty Law Center has found that the number of hate groups has exploded in recent years, and now tops over 2000, a 22% increase in just the last year alone. In 2000, only 602 such groups were counted. Interestingly, hate groups like the Birchers, were not quite specific enough, so people felt they needed to form new groups to satisfy their own specialized types of hate.
Three dominant categories exist: the hate mongers, the nativists and the anti-government zealots. For racist organizations, President Obama, embodying everything that is wrong with our country, symbolizes the sharing of power with minority groups. A “Patriot” movement has emerged and believes like radical militias, that the government has no right to impose taxes of any kind. Sound familiar? The Republican Party often takes this stance, but in all reality, they are more concerned about the rich and big business being taxed, especially by federal and state governments. The Treasury Departments has recently reported that threats against the IRS, and its employees, have risen steadily in recent years.
Professor Cronin has found that much of the anti-union legislation stems from an organization, called the American Legislative Exchange Council, also founded by Paul Weyrich, and Henry Hyde and Lou Barnett, which claim to be non-partisan. Other conservative groups, like the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, also claim to be non-partisan but are clearly funded by foundations leaning to the right. Keep an eye on the Center for Union Facts, founded in 2006 by Richard Berman of Berman & Company, which sponsors Teachers Union Exposed. Look under the “About Us,” button. It won’t reveal who funds them. These organizations and their websites are sensationalist at best and offer no facts to back their claims.
The only defense we have is at the ballot box. While circulating the petition to repeal SB5 at my precinct last Tuesday, many voters had no idea what SB5 is. Educating the public will not be easy but essential in protecting public education. We also need to take time in our busy schedules to phone and meet with our legislators and become active in political campaigns to elect people we know will support our position. That means we need to research our candidates, not necessarily vote along party lines. It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who said “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” As we have found out, our ignorance and silence is the best means of attack for our enemies.
By Susan Ridgeway, Streetsboro Education Association