First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
- Pastor Martin Niemoller
These words were written about the inactivity of the Germans during the Nazis rise to power. To me, these words are a powerful reminder of our responsibility to use our voice. That is why we have spent the last two days in Madison protesting the Governor’s plan to reduce the deficit. We are not opposed to reducing the deficit. We are not opposed to “tightening our belts.” What we are opposed to is the plan to remove collective bargaining rights. The rights that our forefathers fought for us to have. These rights that state that as individuals we can come together in one voice in order to protect our rights to work in an environment that is fair and safe. The rights of our unions are being removed. It may be public employee unions now but it could be private unions tomorrow. After that, who is next?
We have spent the last two days in Madison joining our Wisconsin teachers, public employees, municipal workers, nurses, firefighters and police officers protesting this bill and the unwillingness of the governor to negotiate. We are standing with our Wisconsin citizens in solidarity, telling the country that our Union Rights are Human Rights. It may be public employees now, it could be private employees next. It could be Wisconsin now and Iowa tomorrow. This is not about money. It is about our rights.
We return to Madison today with our children. This is their opportunity to witness history being made. This is their opportunity for greater understanding of the sacrifices of those like Martin Luther King Jr. This is their opportunity to see what democracy looks like. We stand together in one voice. In solidarity. If we do not speak now, who will be left to speak tomorrow?