No longer a one-sided class war

On March 10, a solidarity rally in Seattle drew out 100 people on short notice to stand in support of Wisconsin state workers, whose right to collective bargaining has been taken away by Gov. Scott Walker. Leela Yellesetty, an activist in the International Socialist Organization, gave the following speech at the rally.

MY NAME is Leela, and I am a product of public-sector workers. My dad recently retired from the state of Alaska. My mom is a teacher here in Washington state. She teaches preschool children with special needs. It's incredibly hard work--and it keeps getting harder because they keep cutting the funding and increasing her class size. Nonetheless, she pours her heart and soul into it every day, and she makes a world of difference for those kids and those families. She is an inspiration to me.

My parents deserve a decent retirement. They deserve the full health care coverage that my dad organized and fought for in his union 30 years ago.

Contrary to what we keep hearing these days, being the child of two unionized public workers, I did not grow up in the lap of luxury. But my parents worked hard to ensure that I had every opportunity in life, and I am so grateful for that. With a lot of help from them and financial aid, I went to college and then went on to get my master's degree.

My dream was to become a public librarian. It was a pretty modest dream, I thought. To do work that I love that gives back to the community, and make enough to maybe raise a family one day. Instead, I had the bad luck of graduating on the eve of an international economic crisis. The banks that caused the crisis were bailed out, but libraries weren't.

So now I'm one of those private-sector, non-union workers who supposedly resents the highly paid public workers. I'm not buying it. I resent the fact that I'm working my ass off to barely cover my living expenses and I'm not supposed to complain because I'm lucky to have any job at all. I resent my $1,500 health care deductible. I resent the corporate culture at my office that sees human beings only as numbers on a bottom line, to be used up and thrown away. I can't even think about how long it will take to pay off my student loans. Retirement seems like a distant fantasy.

I know I'm not alone. We are the first generation in this country to be worse off than our parents. And it's not because the money isn't there. I read this statistic today--just one of the many mind-blowing figures out there--that all in all, taxpayers gave the banks upwards of $14 trillion in bailouts. Just 1 percent of that would wipe out all the deficits in all 50 states.

What we're seeing in Wisconsin today is the culmination of 40 years of a one-sided class war in this country, waged by the rich against all the rest of us. I'm so glad our side is finally fighting back!

This isn't just about Wisconsin, this is about all of us--public and private sector, union and non-union, young and old. This is a fight for our future. Some people may say we can't win, but they said the same thing about the workers in this country who gave their lives fighting for the eight-hour day and the weekend. They said the same thing just a few months ago about the people of Egypt and Tunisia.

They were wrong. Let's prove them wrong again!