National Nurses United

National Nurse Magazine April-May 2012

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���The government is subservient to Wall Street. We need a settlement to make up for what was taken. They are getting away with murder.��� organized labor. ���We take a certain joy in exposing hypocrisy,��� he said. ���But then nothing happens.��� In his view, the labor movement is its own worst enemy by failing to strive for goals and take risks. ���The movement must be on the offensive, find ways to attack the enemy,��� said Kelber. On his list: a financial transaction tax (���To be pursued vigorously ... puts labor on the offensive���); pressuring Obama (���Too many concessions to Wall Street, why no minimum wage increase?���); universal Medicare (���the most important, concrete issue���); exposing Wall Street (���They will do anything ... money counts, it���s impersonal, conformity rules���); and, finally, building labor (���Organize, organize, organize.���). Unprompted, Kelber said, ���The nurses of NNU are the best organizers in labor today. They are the exception.��� But most of labor does not get it done, not in the eyes of Harry Kelber. At 25, he was editor of two weekly labor papers that reported the historic CIO organizing campaigns. As a union printer, he was involved in a strike against New York City���s newspapers that endured for 114 days. For five years he was education and cultural director of the Electrical Workers Union, Local 3. In 1995, at the age of 81 and as a member of the Communications Workers of America, he became the first and only independent candidate to run for AFL-CIO vice president, forcing an election. Decades of service to the labor movement, including years of educational A P R I L | M AY 2 0 1 2 service to the New York AFL-CIO, make him a senior statesman of the rank and file. The labor movement today, said Kelber, is ���stilted and sluggish, self-centered and refuses to take action. Labor cannot deal with its own problems.��� What���s to be done, then? ���Labor should be involved in all issues that affect working people. What kind of life do we expect for our children, according to labor?��� he asked. Draw the line, he said, on ���concessionary bargaining,��� form a ���united way against concessions.��� And what about a third political party? At this time, he explained, ���we must fight for third party issues.��� He takes a rare pause. ���We need a government that serves working people.��� That is, go on the offensive. ���Adopt non-violent actions of the 1960s and boycott companies,��� he inveighed. ���There is no room for corruption. We should defend the working class, take up legislation of importance to working people, and express our opinions. The inequality today is deplorable.��� Raise wages, support retirement that works, bring forward educational improvements that are tangible. These are on Harry Kelber���s short list. ���We are in a crisis,��� said Kelber. ���If you don���t know that you don���t know any answers���to unemployment, to how to raise revenue.��� This kind and considerate, thoughtful and gracious man of 97, sat back in his big chair. He had spoken for hours. But he had one final thing to warn against. ���There is a great deal of cowardice.��� Carl Ginsburg is a longtime progressive TV producer and an NNU communications specialist. W W W. N A T I O N A L N U R S E S U N I T E D . O R G N AT I O N A L N U R S E 19

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