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Travis Rowley: Unions vs. Rhode Island – A Moral Divide

Saturday, December 08, 2012


The union-Left tells a lot of lies. But this is one of their most effective: The feigning of innocence and weakness.

Of course, in reality, there is nothing and nobody with more political clout and culpability than organized labor here in Rhode Island.

Writing of this specific deception last year, I wrote this “If the unions manage to block [State Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s pension reform proposal], several years from now – when all of Rhode Island resembles Central Falls and all public employee pensions are undergoing drastic cuts – [president of Council 94] Michael Downey will be stepping to the microphone once again, blaming rich people and politicians for creating the mess. And the union mob will cheer.”

The point I was making was that local union leaders have known for decades about the poor condition of their members’ pensions, yet decided to make opposition to politicians (Republicans, for the most part) who raised awareness of this problem their modus operandi. Fiscally responsible individuals were continuously labeled “anti-worker” – and worse – by the Rhode Island Left.

That is the lie that labor leaders decided to live by long ago.

Customary to progressive politics, while flirting with the economic devastation of entire communities the Rhode Island Left has preserved its power by telling the state’s union base that good-government, budget-balancing politicians represent the worst of humanity.

Every time progressives remember for themselves that it might be a good idea to shore up poorly-funded entitlement programs (pensions, Social Security, etc), another election seems to be right around the corner – and it’s time to start calling Republicans “cruel” and “greedy” again.

These are the politics that progressives can’t afford to abandon. These are the lies that keep them in power.

Unions and Democrats – A Marriage

Resulting from the marriage between radicals and Democrats was the Ocean State’s entire political outlook being shifted far to the left – to the point where politicians such as Frank Caprio, Doug Gablinske, and Gina Raimondo are now scolded by their progressive base as “conservative Democrats.”

This is what passes as “conservative” in Rhode Island: Releasing a report titled “Truth In Numbers.”

In keeping with their self-portrayal as powerless victims, during the run-up to state pension reform last year, labor leaders made it a point to have the public believe that the General Assembly (“management”) was responsible for ignoring the failing health of the state pension system – pretending as if union activists for years hadn’t supported politicians who promised to do just that; as if organized labor and the RI Democratic Party aren’t one-in-the-same; as if the deal between unions and Democrats for years wasn’t precisely this: You keep your hands off of our unsustainable pensions, and we’ll keep you in power.

Michael Downey told a roaring union crowd last year, “The unions didn’t create this pension! The politicians did!” Expressing the same innocence on the Helen Glover Show, Downey said, “This is the General Assembly. They made this pension. They put this together.”

According to a recent GoLocalProv report, the town of W. Warwick’s pension fund is “just 19.8% funded.” Flatly, that would never have been the case unless union insiders throughout the years were wholly incompetent (totally possible) or entirely complicit (more likely) with the Democrats’ malfeasance.

The reality is this: Armed with a series of “contracts” and “promises,” labor operatives always expected to be able to socialize unfunded pension liabilities. There would always be someone left for Democrats to tax.

A Spiritual War

After the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to overhaul the state pension system last fall, the unions – once again – sued the Rhode Island taxpayers.

In the midst of a growing awareness of Rhode Island’s economic paralysis, and in the aftermath of Central Falls’ collapse, onlookers began to ask the most vexing question: Even if the unions prevail, what do they hope to accomplish? (a question becoming more commonly known as “WTF?”)

Ed Achorn of the Providence Journal wrote last January, “It's hard to understand how Rhode Island can remain viable if [the public unions] get their wishes. It's no longer politics; it's math.” Amidst a simultaneous and similar court challenge being leveled by government unions against the City of Providence, Achorn wondered, “What is the end game for public-employee unions?”

Rhode Island Statewide Coalition executive director Donna Perry said more recently, “An overturning of [state pension reform] would produce a number of damaging scenarios that would take many communities to the brink of bankruptcy, and it’s hard to see how anyone wins from that.”

It has been my utmost mission on the pages of GoLocalProv to have more people understand the aims, morality, and psyche of the political Left. Rhode Island is dealing with people who suffer from Marxist illusions and a radical ethic, people who are incapable of losing faith in the Utopian dream – devoted leftists who believe in power above all other principles. Convinced of the righteousness of their cause, these labor religionists see themselves as victims of capitalism, rather than perpetrators of collectivism.

And, according to them, their self-proclaimed victim status licenses them to cheat and lie with impunity and immunity. This includes lying about their involvement in the design of Rhode Island’s economic erosion, suffering no anxiety whatsoever over being called out by an electorate they have helped to debase. Even after the bankruptcy of Central Falls that led to the slashing of retirees’ pension payments, Central Falls union members continue to show up in “solidarity” against the “conservative” reformers at the State House.

The union mob cheers. They think it was Bush’s fault.

Rhode Islanders are dealing with radicals. This is a cultural conflict. This is a spiritual battle. Not a war of ideas.

Rhode Islanders are being confronted by an immoral ideology that is driven by envy and emotion – not “math” or “truth in numbers.”

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is author of The Rhode Island Left: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.


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