These union workers are heroes, not scapegoats - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

These union workers are heroes, not scapegoats

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Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.

Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 4:00 am | Updated: 8:58 pm, Fri Sep 16, 2011.

My wife and I stopped by the Healing Field over the past weekend - Tempe Beach Park transformed into a 9/11 memorial.

Almost 3,000 flags cover the space, each with a biographical sketch of a victim of that horrific day. It's saddening and inspiring and maddening to read the stories of the men, women and children who died in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Penn. that day. Most of those remembered had no choice in their fate that day, were simply going about their normal days, not knowing how abruptly their lives - and America's lives - would soon change.

But the 342 first responders honored in the Healing Field chose to be in the burning towers that day, chose - like they do as part of their routine - to put their lives in jeopardy so someone else might live.

How soon some of us forget.

Their fellow fire, police and paramedics are now punching bags. It seems fashionable in some political circles these days to bash public employee unions, characterizing their membership as freeloaders on the public's dime.

Sure, there are some abuses that need to be addressed. Now. Some of those abuses are so egregious as to be laughable. And some union leaders seem to be more interested in consolidating power than anything else.

But enough's enough.

In this last economic disaster, some have tried to focus on the abuses of unions, as if union members were the culprits in what took place on Wall Street and Main Street. The folks who exploited our system then seem intent on exploiting unions now, to make unions the bad guy. And it's worked.

But it wasn't the unions that destroyed the housing industry. It wasn't the unions that depleted our retirement accounts.

No, the unions didn't do any of that. We know who did: the people who concocted the financial house of cards based on a phony housing market.

But when states' pension funds were decimated, somehow the focus was not on the folks who created that problem but on the unions whose members were a part of those pensions. Rightly, we've corrected some of the pension abuses in Arizona. Some, however, seem more intent on destroying unions than reforming the pension problems. And part of their strategy is to vilify unions.

But enough's enough.

I didn't check to see if the paramedics who saved my mom's life 12 years ago were in the union.

No one refuses the help from a police officer because he or she might belong to the Fraternal Order of Police.

No one asked the firefighters going into the World Trade Center if they had a union card, either.

These men and women do a job few of us would want to do, and even fewer could do. They're everyday heroes, not scapegoats for some political movement.

Enough's enough.

• Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.

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