Election Countdown: A Call for Thoughtful Debate

Volume CIX, No. 10October, 2009

Mary Landolfi

Readers will observe from the ads and other content in this issue that we are approaching a new election here at Local 802 and that campaigns are heating up.

For many, the reaction is one of dread, in anticipation of a tit-for-tat slug-fest that reveals little about how the various parties would govern and discourages rather than encourages participation.

In response, some conclude that we should not have a multi-party system, that returning to the day when there was only one choice at the ballot box would eliminate strife.

I understand that reaction but I cannot agree.

In order to meet the difficulties that confront us we need a healthy and vigorous debate about how to proceed and what path to take.

The challenge is to require that the debate be undertaken in a constructive and civilized manner so that issues are illuminated rather than obscured.

In order for that to occur, we must fully observe the right of free speech for every member.

Any political entity – whether a country, business or other organization – that sacrifices free speech on the altar of political orthodoxy, no matter how appealing that orthodoxy may be presented, loses its way and eventually pays a high price.

I believe, unfortunately, that we are in great danger in doing just that at Local 802.

When our meetings begin to more resemble a 16th-century public execution than a reasoned debate, we are at risk of succumbing to mob rule.

When some feel free to drown out the voices of those with whom they disagree (and do so by commandeering equipment for their own exclusive use), we are allowing the rights of some members to be abrogated.

When a member feels compelled to disavow and abjectly apologize for a letter to the editor written of his own volition and published at his demand after two months of consideration, we must question what forces are being brought to bear to influence his opinions and actions.

When a committee person freely makes decisions within caucus, but then states that she cannot advocate for them at ratification because she might lose employment as a result, we must consider whether we are moving away from democracy and toward oligarchy.

All of these events have taken place within Local 802. None bode well for our future.

I urge you to participate in this election and to do so in an informed and thoughtful manner.

Examine the issues and make sure that you hear all sides before making a decision.

Insist on hearing how goals will be met.

Don’t be diverted by magical promises that cannot come to fruition or the siren call to return to a more pleasant past.

If accusations are made, find out whether they are based on truth, half-truth and innuendo, or worse yet, lies.

An informed electorate is our best protection against the forces of intolerance and division.

We cannot afford to succumb to those influences if we are to succeed in the future.