The March 5 editorial “Equality for unions” makes an excellent argument for a full-time legislative body, strong ethics laws for lobbying, and publicly financed elections in Rhode Island. Unfortunately, The Journal’s virulently anti-union stand only allows it to see the smaller picture.
But imagine if no legislator could be paid by a union, business, or any other individual? Imagine if financial lobbying, lining the campaign coffers of legislators, were illegal for any organization or individual? Just imagine if all our elections were publicly financed and those we elect could actually do the business they are elected to do without voting yes or no based on the effects of campaign contributions?
The reason The Journal focuses on the now legal political activity of unions is that it fails to see this bigger picture. All legislators are part-time. Therefore, they have to work elsewhere. Sure some legislators are union employees, but many are lawyers or business owners as well. They take numerous campaign contributions from corporations, unions and individuals who all have a political agenda. Therefore, all legislators have a conflict of interest on certain votes. Do all abstain because of this conflict of interest? No. And The Journal fails to see this, or rather fails to tell this side of the issue.
The only fair way to solve this problem and better our state is to have publicly financed elections, a full-time legislative body, and strong ethics laws barring financial lobbying. Until this is done, big campaign money (corporate, individual, and union) will continue to influence the voting records of each of our legislators.
As a union member myself, I would be happy to see this change. I know that if the people’s will is truly enacted, Rhode Island will have living wages, safe working environments, child-labor laws, and so forth, that the unions have been working for.
The writer, a union member, is a social- studies teacher at Knotty Oak Middle School in Coventry and is Web designer for the Coventry Teachers’ Alliance.