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Good government is ours to shape

Teamsters Local 237 | , Gregory Floyd President | 8/23/2012, 2:52 p.m.
Lessons learned from the storm

For many Americans, government is an abstract idea. It's something confusing or a faceless thing they send their taxes to every April 15. These people go about their lives, complain about the government sometimes and hope that it works.

For us, it's very real. The government is our employer. We work in vast public housing developments, hospital centers and in other essential agencies that the government funds. We know the importance of the work the government does. As public sector workers, we have a special and close relationship with the government, for better or worse.

We see the good. Without the government, our states, cities and towns would be unable to run. They provide the

services that keep us safe and keep our streets clean, to name a few. These services are performed by skilled and dedicated civil servants. For decades, the unions representing these workers fought for fair wages and benefits. As a result, government jobs helped to create and sustain our nation's middle class.

We also know the problems politics can cause in government. For example, each year the budget process turns into a battle where public employee unions fight with the government to keep service levels the same and workers in their jobs. Recently, Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted to change a long-standing practice whereby the comptroller sets the city's prevailing wage standard. That sort of power grab is all too common. We were able to stop the mayor in his efforts to control the prevailing wage by challenging him in the courts. That will make sure the process remains independent and fair.

Government can also be confusing and inefficient. The greater good can get lost in a tangled web of government rules and procedures. For example, recent news articles have accused the New York City Housing Authority of letting millions of dollars idle while their buildings fall deeper into disrepair. But rather than leveling accusations, we must not lose sight of the NYCHA's mission--to keep its residents and workers safe.

That is why we must strive for the good in government and fight against the bad. We are working with NYHCA officials to help them confront the budget issues they are facing for many reasons. If we do not help NYCHA get more federal funding and use the money they already have, we will all be in trouble.

The fight to improve government and make it respond to the needs and values of the majority of the people it represents is a lifetime commitment. This presidential race will be very important to the future of this country. The Democrats and the Republicans have two very different views about how government should work. If Mitt Romney and the Republicans win this race, they will eviscerate government services and funding. Millions will suffer and thousands of jobs will be eliminated.

We must join together as we have so many times in the past and stand united against this dangerous vision for our country and its government. Obama and the Democrats understand what government is for--protecting the people, serving the public and creating prosperity for everyone.