By Shannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News
I want to be a Republican and I want a time machine. Oh, I’m not going all Lindsey Holmes on you; I need a time machine to find the Grand Old Party.
I have to thank Mayor Dan Sullivan for starting me on this quest.
A few weeks ago, at five minutes until closing time, the mayor announced a plan to roll back more than four decades of labor policy in Anchorage. It wasn’t the first shot in his war on working men and women in our town — but this was the nuclear option.
I take it as a good sign that I can still be surprised at the calculation and manipulation of our elected officials. Sullivan’s “We Hate Unions” proposal was dropped at the last minute that someone could file to run for the Assembly. That protected a certain Assemblyman and co-sponsor of his anti-union jihad from having an opponent.
Surely just a happy coincidence.
Ouch, I just rolled my eyes too hard. Could someone please run a write-in campaign against Mr. Ernie Hall?
What does it say about the character of Mr. Hall and his co-sponsor, Jennifer Johnston, that they would collaborate in a secret backroom deal to stick it to city employees? When 1,500 people showed up at the Assembly meeting four days later, the two seemed unconcerned.
We are forever reminded that democracy is no spectator sport — it demands participation. The purpose of unions is to add just a touch of democracy to the workplace. Elected leadership, negotiations, give and take, collective bargaining — all in trade for hours of your life providing a service. What the mayor, Mr. Hall and Ms. Johnston are doing is a slap at that democracy.
Here’s the bottom line for Anchorage: Quality matters. Public safety is more than being able to call 911 and talk to someone local. Safety includes road conditions, heat in our homes, sanitation workers, clean water, sewage treatment, the list goes on. Public employees are responsible for those things 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
The mayor’s proposal calls for no raises for those workers. Depending on health costs, employee paychecks can go down over time but not up. Who in their right mind would want a job that, no matter how well you do it, you never get a raise? Show me a company that advertises employment opportunities with the slogan “Your starting wage will last forever.” What quality of worker will that attract? Anchorage is a great place to live — if you’re happy working harder for less. We can all look forward to chronic turnover and grudging service, while saving pocket change in taxes each year.
The mayor and his pet Assembly members have a history of cheap-shotting public employees while dealing fat, sole-source contracts and party planning jobs to their cronies. In 2010, Mayor Sullivan awarded 3 percent raises to 162 city executives at the same time he asked unions to take less in their paychecks.
Anyway, all that prompted my search. I wanted to see how far back I had to go to find a Republican Party with respect for public employees — you know, the men and women who plow the streets or run into our burning homes (even if they don’t know us personally). I knew there must have been a time when most Republicans didn’t share the mayor’s “born on third base and thinks he hit a triple” selfishness.
Abraham Lincoln, for example, said, “I am glad to know there is a system of labor, where the laborer can strike if he wants to. I would to God that such a system prevailed all over the world.”
President Dwight Eisenhower said, “Labor is the United States. The men and women, who with their minds, their hearts and hands, create the wealth that is shared in this country — they are America.”
And he wasn’t the last Republican president who acknowledged the value of unions. “Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost,” said Ronald Reagan.
Socialists! Marxists! Or, as we used to know them, Republicans! Back before the Republican Party turned into a new John Birch Society.
Reading the 1956 Republican Party platform, I found myself nodding and saying, “Yes!” over and over.
It’s an American tragedy that workers — including unionized public employees — are so routinely demonized for the financial gain of fat cats and the political benefit of the ambitious demagogues who serve them.
The mayor’s maneuvering is just another small step in the long march toward elimination of a middle class in this country.
Oh, for a time machine.
Shannyn Moore can be heard weekdays from 6 to 9 p.m. on KOAN 1020 AM and 95.5 FM radio. Her weekly TV show can be seen Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. statewide on ABC affiliate KYUR Channel 13 Anchorage, KATN Fairbanks and KJUD Juneau.