The word "solidarity" has always sounded very American to me. As a country, we have always shown the world that American workers have an advantage, an opportunity to work in an environment where they are treated fairly. A chance to find the American Dream and create homes and build families.
- mutual agreement and support: harmony of interests and responsibilities among individuals in a group, especially as manifested in unanimous support and collective action for something
The word "solidarity" can be applied to so many things that define us as Americans. Our court system and its jurors working to reach an agreement during deliberations are one of our best examples to the world. It's everywhere around us: sports fans, music fans, and political parties all reflect solidarity. Not only have we come to expect solidarity in so many different forms and incorporated it into our lives, we embrace it. We take comfort from it when it supports us personally.
Labor unions aren't a perfect fit for every worker and every job. But let's look at a few of the things that we have now because of unions: our poverty-stricken children aren't allowed to work in factories, there are safety standards in the workplace to prevent a tragedy like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and there are minimum wage and overtime laws. All of these protections were made possible because of the unions.
So why have we allowed politicians, the people who benefit the most from solidarity, to make it sound like a bad word? When did we start looking at unions as big anonymous entities rather than the teachers in the classrooms, the policemen who answer 911 calls, or the firemen who put their lives at risk protecting our forests from wildfires? There's always been a natural conflict between business and unions, but when did it become so bad that we've allowed it to divide our communities? It happened when the Koch brothers and other billionaire businessmen were allowed to funnel the millions of dollars going into conservative political campaigns across this country.
In the past I've blamed it on the divide and conquer wedge politics of Karl Rove but it's become much more ominous than that. It's wedge politics on steroids and pumped full of dollars, and it's become an invidious snake winding through the way we look at our fellow citizens. We have conservative politicians slicing and dicing the solidarity of our country so that we view everyone who's not in our own group (whichever that may be) as though they are an enemy to be feared. Hispanic, black, white, gay, straight, women, unions, liberals, conservatives: we're all in a special group.
The only cure for it is the vaccine of becoming accountable for our actions and our attitudes, starting at a very grass-roots level. Rather than assuming the unions are just a bunch of cigar-chewing deal makers adrift in cronyism, we need to remember who those union members are. We don't need anyone to tell us which group to fear, we don't need to hand it over to God (I think He's busy) and let the churches dictate our politics, and we don't need to be divided. Let's use the mind and hearts we were given to do our own analysis of the issues that affect us as individuals and embrace the solidarity of simply being American.
That is true solidarity, and it's a good thing.