The fading red state myth

The conventional wisdom insists that the nation is sharply divided in two. One part of the country supposedly consists of “blue” States that allegedly promote workplace fairness through unions and otherwise. These States also purportedly value and fully support public services. The other section of the nation supposedly contains “red” States that allegedly reject the role of unions and other enforcement efforts to secure workplace fairness. These States also purportedly do not value or support public services. That “wisdom” is a caricature of reality and confuses rather than clarifies. The entire country is, if any color, “purple.”

Recent events in a number of “red” States show that, contrary to the stereotype, people in all parts of the country appreciate the value of public education and other public services. These developments also show that unions remain vital in the fight for so much of what people around the nation want and need. In the past few weeks, for example, teachers and other unionized public employees have gone on strike or taken other direct action in Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia with widespread public support. Despite significant objections from the more privileged and their political allies, unionized teachers and other public employees have succeeded in substantially improving the resources and future for public education and, therefore, for students and their teachers as well as other educational staff. This increasing awareness and action calls to mind that simple but profound saying coined by the late United States Senator from Minnesota, Paul Wellstone: “ we all do better when we all do better.”

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