Public service union leader urges Boehner to cool violent rhetoric

Citing recent statements by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, AFSCME president Gerald McEntee has called upon the speaker to “stop using violent metaphors and demonizing public employees.”

He was referring to a recent television interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network during which Boehner claimed that collective bargaining is a “machine gun that public employees have put right at the head of public officials.”

“Collective bargaining isn’t a weapon,” said McEntee. “It’s a process that gives workers a voice in finding solutions to problems that exist. We should pull together as a country, but that kind of language will only tear us apart.”

“How much better would we all be,” McEntee asked, “if Boehner stayed focused on job creation?”

“The Speaker says that public employees’ pay and benefits are out of line with other workers. That’s not right,” said McEntee. “The average AFSCME retiree pension is $19,000. Spreading false information is just another way of demonizing the men and women who staff 911 centers, teachers, people who care for the infirm and others.”

McEntee issued a statement yesterday saying his union is calling upon all workers to join in an April 4 day of solidarity with workers in dozens of states where “right wing corporate politicians are trying to take away the rights Dr. King gave his life for.”

It was on April 4 in 1968 that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated while supporting the right of sanitation workers to unionize under the auspices of AFSCME in Memphis, Tenn.

Also yesterday, as they have increasingly over the past month, allies of the labor movement continued to speak out against anti-labor Republicans.

In Iowa, former Speaker Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque, blasted Iowa’s GOP House leadership for resorting to shut downs of the Capitol switchboard when hundreds of calls came in from citizens angry about budget cuts.

Noted economist Dean Baker also came to the defense of public workers when he released a report yesterday, showing what unions consider the best explanation yet of the so-called pension crisis cited by conservatives as the reason for their support for attacks on unions.

In it, Baker explains that the cause of the pension problems states are having is not benefit payments or benefit increases but the significant decline in the stock market in 2008 and 2009. Baker documents how pension funding, as a percentage of the total U.S. economy, is extremely small and the challenge of funding pensions is more than manageable in the long term.

Image: Stock photo of Rep. Boehner, provided by House Speaker’s office.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is editor in chief at He started as labor editor of the People's World in May, 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.