UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

We either go up together or go down together - Rena Wong SEIU

Rena Wong, an Organising Director with the US union SEIU (Service Employees International Union), spelt out for delegates at the UNISON Health Conference the global realities of attacks on unions. Rena brought solidarity from our sister union and described the scale of the attacks on public sector trade unions in Wisconsin, Ohio and New Hampshire.

The tax payouts to Repubican backing companies, the manufactured deficits, then the attacks on public sector workers. Proposals to close down pension schemes, take away bargaining rights and scrap health insurance schemes are all part of Corporate America's attempt to downsize the public sector to the level of the private sector.

She highlighted the example of Sandra a 53 year old worker in Wisconsin. She has had 2 heart attacks at work but no health insurance. She was taken to hospital twice and her treatment has left her with health care bills of $100,000. Another worker who works as a nurse in a cancer ward in the University of Wisconsin Hospital, has been diagnosed as having MS, can no longer drive to work but has joined the 150,000 workers demonstrating to defend union rights in Wisconsin.

Rena made the elementary point that unions have to change the environment in which we operate by organising to raise density and union power.

Rena quoted Martin Luther King - 'We either go up together or go down together' - in a rallying cry to unions to unite globally - 'we all face the same issues even though we come from different places'