As Democrats, we should be proud to stand in support of the striking Verizon workers and their unions, the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). We need to defend American workers and the unions that represent them not only because hardworking people deserve a living wage but also because they deserve a dignity wage. This is not only an economic issue; it is a moral issue.
The income gap between rich and poor in the United States has not been this large since the early 1900’s. This income inequality gap inversely corresponds with the decrease in union membership. While the average total compensation of S&P 500 CEOs is $11 million, worker income has stagnated as the cost of living has dramatically increased. Verizon’s CEO, Lowell McAdam, for example, receives an annual cash compensation of $18 million about 500 times what an average worker earns at Verizon. A comparable European or Canadian company CEO to worker pay ratio would be about 20 to 1 prompting one columnist to suggest, perhaps corporate stockholders should be outsourcing CEO jobs.
It’s also more than an argument about wages. Verizon wants to get out from under the union and has designed their offer to reduce the number of union workers and provide less job security for union workers in exchange for a pay increase. Telling workers they will receive slightly more a year but also be much more in danger of losing their job entirely is the worst sort of corporate bullying, and we shouldn’t stand for it.
We must draw the line here. When companies that make outrageous profits while keeping their employees bordering on poverty, we draw the line. When companies can afford to pay a CEO millions of dollars a year but take away the healthcare of striking workers who are asking to be able to meet the basic necessities of life, we draw the line. When honest, hardworking people are backed into a corner and being asked to hand over their job security (arguably the most precious thing to workers), we draw the line thicker and bolder than it has ever been drawn.
This is a moral issue. This strike is about the future of American families. Over history, unions have been the chief advocates for working people, not people who want to line their pockets, but people who want to support their families. Unions brought us the weekend and showed us that when we are united—all of us, union or not—we create better lives, better communities and a better world. Without unions, we find ourselves in a never ending race to the bottom.
I will stand with these union workers who are standing up for America’s working families and I call on all Democrats to join us.
Matthew C. Patrick, Candidate for State Rep, third Barnstable District.
Regarding Unstructured Sports
Unstructured sports, or pick-up games as we use to call them when I was a kid, are great for building organization, cooperation and leadership according to recent research1. We just picked teams and played, but in the process, we called balls and strikes, who was safe or not, who carried or made a foul on the court, touchdowns, pass interference and clipping, all pretty much by consensus. There was a lot of negotiating and if they wanted to, everybody played regardless of age or sex. This kind of interaction is lacking in the world of today’s youth.
It worked most of the time. When it didn’t work by consensus or when the older kids couldn’t settle an argument over a controversial call, it rarely–but only rarely–ended up in a fight. Nobody was actually hurt aside from a bloody nose. We learned how to negotiate with our peers. We knew what we couldn’t get away with on the field. It worked and they were some of the best days of my life. We would be out there, weather permitting, almost every day because it was fun. And as much fun as we were having, we were also engaging in the first real social contract of our lives. Allowing kids to navigate these social experiences and trusting them to negotiate with each other helps them physically, mentally and socially succeed.
When I mentioned this at the discussion about bringing new life to the Recreation Center, I never had a chance to respond to Sandy Cuny, who I respect and admire for her civic dedication. I wanted to say that the audience that might be attracted to this type of unstructured play would most likely be teens and young adults up into their thirties in the evenings. Young children unaccompanied by an adult or sibling would be allowed to participate in the evenings but might be better suited to a supervised session after school until about 6. This was the way it was when I first moved here in 1980 and it seemed to work well. Can it be resurrected? Now more than ever, we need a safe place for our kids of all ages to interact with each other in positive ways. Parents don’t feel as good about letting their children roam freely as long as they’re home on time for dinner, which is precisely why we need to dedicate this space to the people who have the best opportunities ahead of them: our kids. Let’s help them make themselves the people we know they can be.
My regards to Coach Phil Alfonso for organizing the session and all the parents concerned enough to attend.
Did you see this letter to the editor in today’s Falmouth Enterprise? Many thanks to Al Driscoll of Waquoit for reminding people about Matt’s work to help Veterans. See the letter here.
Matthew C. Patrick
February 5, 2015
I watched with disbelief as the recent spectacle of the Speaker of the House played out in the news and the press. He sadly tried to rationalize his move do away with term limits for his position. The irony is he was a proponent for the measure when he became speaker six years ago. But the arguments for term limits are stronger than ever. The following are excerpts from a letter I sent to my former colleagues in 2011:
I sat in front of his speech for ten years and the greatness of it never hit me until I read it again in the newspaper on its 50th anniversary. I’m speaking of President John F. Kennedy’s City on the Hill speech originally delivered January 9th 1961. The speech is on bronze plaque in front of the Chamber of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in which I served from 2001 through 2010. I read the bronze version before but the utter brilliance of it didn’t hit me until recently possibly because I had been urging my colleagues to refresh and renew the democracy in the “Peoples’ House”.
The Massachusetts House can regain the public confidence if it changes its power structure. Too much power resides in the Speaker and as such is a constant opportunity for abuse. It will be used and misused, at times, simply because it is available and if not this Speaker then another Speaker. They will say that we have a good man in there now but that is not the point. The people’s trust should not reside in the attitude or personality of any one person. I don’t think anyone should want to undertake that responsibility once they understand the true burden that it is.
Like in Kennedy’s time, the U.S. and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are facing grave times. Government is broke; both the Federal and State tax systems are upside down; the economy is in a shambles; the middle class is disappearing because manufacturing jobs that support middle class families are gone; the gap between rich and poor in the U.S. is the largest in the industrialized world and Massachusetts has the largest gap between rich and poor in the 50 states; and confidence in our government is at an all-time low.
Voters wonder if our elected officials can handle the problems confronting us. They don’t want more taxes because they are afraid the money will be wasted or even worse, stolen. Organizations that are derogatory and dismissive of elected officials have formed and they are indiscriminate in their vengeance. Public political speech in print and electronic media is angry and inflammatory.
Clearly, we are at a cross road and there is a lot of important work to be done. However, we don’t have the confidence of the people to make the dramatic changes that need to be made. This is exactly what President Kennedy was talking about in the last half of his speech. Do we as legislators have the moral authority necessary to govern during times of crisis? This is what Kennedy was talking about when he said,
History will not judge our endeavors and a government cannot be selected – merely on the basis of color or creed or even party affiliation. Neither will competence and loyalty and stature, while essential to the utmost, suffice in times such as these. For of those to whom much is given, much is required. And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each one of us – recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state – our success or failure, in whatever office we may hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions:
First, were we truly men of courage – with the courage to stand up to one’s enemies – and the courage to stand up, when necessary, to one’s associates – the courage to resist public pressure, as well as private greed?
Secondly, were we truly men of judgment – with perceptive judgment of the future as well as the past – of our own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others – with enough wisdom to know that we did not know, and enough candor to admit it?
Third, were we truly men of integrity – men who never ran out on either the principles in which they believed or the people who believed in them – men who believed in us – men whom neither financial gain nor political ambition could divert from the fulfillment of our sacred trust?
Finally, were we truly men of dedication – with and honor mortgaged to no single individual or group, and compromised by no private obligation or aim, but devoted solely to serving the public good and the national interest.
Eliminating the term limits for the Speaker of the House is a mistake. The Massachusetts Legislature still lacks the confidence of the people and it will need to work hard to get it back. Right now, they are going in the wrong direction.
Originally published in the Cape Cod Times August 15, 2014
It would be good if people could take an emotional inventory of the root causes of their negative feelings toward the young immigrants from Latin America. Once people understand them, hopefully they will see that the now-defunct plan to house the children on the base for four months is separate from the overall immigration issue.
I did my own inventory to try to understand where people were coming from on the issue. Here is what I found. The problems of immigrants are the same ones we are experiencing … only more dire.
It is understandable why people fear immigrants. People are concerned that more immigrants will do even more to take away jobs and suppress wages in a process that has been going on since the 1970s. When I was young, I could always get a job in a factory that would support my family if I decided not to go to college. Many of my friends did. Then the factories began shutting down and moving away. The situation can be exacerbated by immigrants – legal and not legal – who can work for less money.
Americans are losing their jobs to overseas workers who will work for less when factories move out of the U.S. Most American manufacturing has moved overseas to take advantage of unorganized workers who have lower wages, drastically reduced benefits and few, if any, worker protections. Corporations that move overseas also have more options to pollute, because there is less environmental regulation.
Almost all corporations do this in the name of creating more wealth for their shareholders, which they claim is their only responsibility. That claim is debatable.
The end product to all of this is there is a lot less job security in America and a much greater gap between rich and poor, something that didn’t exist back in the 1950s through 1980s.
So, the concern that many Americans have about immigration is understandable. Anything that contributes to less job security for Americans is something that can and should be avoided. In addition, it irritates most people to know we can’t control our own borders.
I recently had the privilege of hearing the Rev. John Dorhauer, Southwest Conference Minister of the United Church of Christ, who spoke from his heart about the plight of the immigrants and why they are leaving their homes. He explained that there are three causes to the increased migration, not of the immigrants’ making.
The first two are products of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Alliance, which went into effect in 1993. NAFTA put the small farmers in Latin America out of business by subsidizing the corn producers in the states. Thousands of Latin American farmers found that they could not produce corn at the same price as American corn. They sold their farms to feed their families and many of them immigrated to the States to work on American farms. Where there were once many thriving small farms and villages, there is now only overgrown fields.
NAFTA also shut down roughly 30,000 small businesses by enabling big-box stores to move into Mexico. The big boxes undercut all the small businesses that once appeared on every small town’s main street. Sound familiar? Wal-Mart has replaced those businesses just as they have here at home. Here in the States, Wal-Mart pays its workers minimum wage while coaching them to get food stamps and other federal benefits, effectively shifting its responsibility to pay a living wage to the American taxpayer. What do the Latin American businessmen do to provide for their families? What would you do?
Last, there is the war on drugs that has made the Americans who consume drugs the financiers of drug cartels and their gangs in Mexico and Central America. These cartels and gangs have set up shop in every American city. They commit unspeakable acts of terror upon the people and children of Latin America.
The best way to stem the tide of immigration is to create better living conditions in Latin America. It is essential that all families be able to eat and keep themselves in basic necessities: housing, water and good health. They need work just as we do, and it doesn’t have to be a great-paying job.
The first thing we should do is eliminate the NAFTA subsidies for American corn producers. They now have price guarantees borne by the American taxpayer.
The next thing we should do is eliminate the dominance of big-box stores and make them pay living wages, both here and in Latin America. How do you do it? We should implement legislation to regulate corporations similar to the way the Community Reinvestment Act did banks. Corporations should play by our rules in order to keep their charters … rules that benefit the common good both here and in other countries. It would help if the rules were international in scope.
Finally, we must do more to reduce drug use in America. We need to provide treatment instead of mandatory jail time for nonviolent drug offenders. Putting them in jail only perpetuates the problem. To reduce the use of drugs, we should provide people with well-paying, family-supporting jobs so they can raise families and become responsible taxpaying citizens.
Bringing manufacturing home and addressing our energy needs with clean-energy alternatives, like offshore wind turbines, smart grids and energy efficiency, is our future, one we need to embrace to help industry create these jobs.
Matt Patrick is a candidate for the Plymouth and Barnstable Senate District.