Thursday, April 7, 2011

An Open Letter to Senator Terry Moulton

Senator Moulton,

Last week, my hometown newspaper published a relatively benign column I wrote regarding unions and their attempted representation of the middle class. The column has already received a number of comments, both supporting and opposing the words I'd written. One in particular caught my eye, from "Terry in Wisconsin." For a number of reasons, Senator Moulton, this made me think of you. I have no way of knowing if this was actually you who commented. Here's what "Terry" had to say:
"Question. If the unions are fighting for us? Why did they put out a directive to boycott many of the businesses in Wisconson. They told businesses if they are not for the unions i.e. against Gov.Walker their business would be boycotted. The directive went on to say "If you are nuetral it is the same as being against the union" and you too will be boycotted. Call me crazy Joe, but this does not sound like someone fighting for me a business owner and employer. "
"Terry from Wisconsin" seems nervous about unions threatening his business and its co-workers. I can see why. There has been a great deal of fear spread in recent weeks about threatened boycotts. I do think it's sad that we've come to this. It's an impasse that could easily be ended with good dialogue. So to this, I'd like to address you, Senator Terry Moulton, even though I'm in Vinehout's district.

You're a small business owner, and unfortunately, you're physically located right next to a couple of big box chains that sell much of what you already have. You've already got the deck stacked against you. The question is, why stack it against yourself even further? I can go to Scheel's or Farm and Fleet for much of the tackle and archery equipment you sell. I might even be able to get a better deal.

Public workers and their sympathizers represent a sizable segment of your market. Supporting them loses you nothing, and quite possibly gains you the business of all of those people. In fact, in our current climate, with tensions this high, union-supporting businesses are garnering a good deal of positive attention from folks like me. I feel bad about this, but I didn't know Mouldy's existed until this all started. If you would have come out in favor of our teachers and snowplow drivers, I may have taken a special trip over there instead of heading to Scheel's.

I really like supporting small businesses, and yours could have been one that I patronized religiously. I do the same with Brickhouse Music in Eau Claire. If I need anything guitar-related, I ask them first. I could maybe get guitar strings cheaper somewhere, but I know that my purchase keeps them in business just a little longer. It's worth it for all of us to have them around. Their workers are musicians in our community who care whether or not my guitar sounds cool when I play at The Mousetrap. I'm sure, just like them, your workers care if I have a good time using the products you sell at Mouldy's. I bet there are plenty of great and ridiculous fishing stories swapped over the counter at your store.

You have a chance to bring in countless people just like me, simply by putting your name on a dotted line. Supporting the teachers in our town could be the greatest business decision you ever make. Thousands of people would know you stood up for them when their backs were against the wall. I sincerely doubt you'd lose any business from constituents on the other side of the political fence. Who stops shopping at a store because the store supports teachers?

This is your chance to be a hero to the people.

They would remember you forever as the guy who thought twice before taking thousands of dollars from every teacher in the state in the midst of a recession. They'd remember you as the guy who said, "You know what? These are my neighbors here. We ought to be on the same side." Instead, you're "ruining their business," as they're threatening to ruin yours.

Perhaps none of us have seen this as a possible a win-win situation, but it sincerely could be just that. I'm sure if your sister was a teacher, you wouldn't want her to suffer. And if any of us had a brother working at your store, we wouldn't want him to lose his job over this. If you focused on the common bond we all have as community members, you'd know that we really do want to support you and your employees, just as you really do have our long-term personal interests at heart.

We should be building each other up, and instead we're fighting over scraps. This divisiveness hurts our whole community. There's no need to put you on one side and teachers on another. We're all one family. We need to work together if we want to keep Wisconsin great.

I'll close with this: I have no control here. I don't live in your district. I'm just one guy typing on a blog from Eau Claire. I'm not a union negotiator, and I only belonged to one union in my life - for 8 months as a grocery cashier in high school. I've got no power to change anything. You do have that power. You hold in your own hands the power to both improve your own bottom line, the lives of your employees, and the lives of the teachers, snowplow drivers, shop mechanics, and corrections officers in your own neighborhood. It's up to you, Senator.