How many times have you heard that? Or, how many times have you said it? If you have ever been involved in any social, religious, fraternal or political organization in an active leadership role, then you’ve heard it countless times.
If you are a passive, stay-at-home, “let-the-other-guy-do-it” kind of person, you have probably said it countless times.
It has always been so - it will continue to be – unless…
One of the many freedoms which makes the United States different from most other countries is the freedom to change the government and the direction in which our country is heading, without taking to the streets with guns.
Of course, too many of us take this freedom for granted, and many of us are too busy to get involved. In 1984, for example, fewer than 40 percent of U.S. voters participated in the presidential election.
What a shame! In many countries, people by the thousands fight and die just for the right to vote.
Democracy is one of America’s most cherished principles. It forms the bedrock of our government and our union. Democracy means having choices – and also having responsibilities.
One of the joys of living in a democracy is that we have the right to disagree and we respect one another’s right to disagree.
We also have the precious right – and responsibility – to take part in determining which direction our country will take.
While the union’s Active Ballot Club provides the political muscle we need on a local level, our International Union undertakes activities which are aimed at education and fund-raising on a national level.
While a union cannot expect to match the major corporations and millionaires in fund-raising, we can and must beat them in those areas that make the difference – people power and education.
In these days of mass communication, even Jesus Christ couldn’t win if nobody knew who He was, or what He stood for.
Conversely, Satan, with enough money to hire slick Madison Avenue “image makers” and to buy all the TV time, could easily deceive more than enough people to get elected – especially if more than 60 percent of the voters stay at home. Money is important, but education is much more so.
We’ve seen the difference that people power can make. Last year, over a thousand Local 1994 members donned in their gold shirts, packed the council hearing meetings and made the County Council take notice. In return, a vote of 8 – 0 to fully fund the collective bargaining agreement and your negotiated raises for FY09 were secured.
On a national level, scores of union members have manned the phones and hit the streets in an unprecedented effort to educate voters on working family issues. Our political efforts this fall will build on and surpass our past successes. The stakes have never been more critical. We have the opportunity to restore integrity and compassion to our government by electing new leadership.
For democracy to work, people need information. Every election year, the UFCW provides information to members about campaign issues, and endorses candidates who understand and will be responsive to the concerns of working families.
And every year, we get a few letters and phone calls from members complaining that we “shouldn’t be telling them how to vote.” I strongly believe that providing information is a key part of a union’s responsibility to its members.
UFCW members get information from many different sources – the internet, television, newspapers, friends, co-workers, church leaders, union leaders, and the candidates themselves. Our point of view is one of many that our members can use to make up their minds in the voting booth.
We don’t need to tell people how to vote. We just need to give them facts.
I am reminded of the advice my father gave me when I was first hired as a union representative. He said, “give the people all the facts, all the time, whether they like it or not. If you do that, they will make the right decision 99 percent of the time. And the one percent of the time they make what you think is the wrong decision, you’re probably wrong.”
Most people agree that the country needs a change in direction, and the UFCW is committed to a massive effort to help bring it about. But it can only be done with your active participation.
The Union needs your participation. Democracy works only if people exercise their constitutional right to express their views and their responsibility to participate in the political process.
Get registered to vote. Make sure your family and co-workers are registered too. Get involved. It’s the best investment you’ll ever make.
- Doug Menapace, Field Services