In light of some disparaging remarks we've heard around town lately, we'd like to remind everyone who the real heroes are in today's society. They're neither the overpaid, pampered sports stars, nor are they the pop culture musicians and movie stars whose antics and lifestyles teenagers and young adults strive to emulate.
We submit that the real heroes of our nation are -- or at least should be -- the people who make sacrifices to take care of their families and children -- the next generation of Americans.
The real heroes are the hard-working Americans who labor under less than ideal circumstances for limited wages and benefits -- and who are willing to stand up and be counted when those meager provisions are threatened.
We submit, in fact, that the real heroes in this country are men and women like the copper miners who are now walking the picket lines in Hayden and Kearny -- men and women who have the courage and determination to take on the corporate world's attempt to force lower wages and reduced benefits on middle class workers, threatening the stability of the family unit, while compromising the educational opportunities their children need to aspire to the American dream of a better future.
Too many Americans have a knee-jerk reaction to the words "union" and "strike." But what choice do miners have in the face of this brazen attempt by Asarco to freeze wages for three years while simultaneously reducing their pension and medical benefits.
This at a time when, according to The Arizona Republic, copper prices are at 15-year highs and Asarco's copper sales are up almost $2 million from last year. Grupo Mexico, the multinational conglomerate that is Asarco's parent company, earned first quarter profits of $187.6 million from its southern Peru operations alone.
And Asarco falls far short of being a good corporate citizen on other fronts as well. Since Grupo Mexico outbid Phelps Dodge for the company in 1999, Asarco has clashed with the U.S. government over environmental issues and with Arizona school districts over delinquent property taxes.
As this strike unfolds, we find the reactions we've heard from some people curious. It seems that many community leaders have forgotten that the backbone of this country -- its middle class -- is a product of the great union movement of the 20th century, and they've failed to remember the sacrifices -- even loss of life -- unionized American workers made to earn a decent living.
The eight-hour day, five-day week, lunch breaks, child labor laws, humane working conditions, and decent wages and benefits now enjoyed by so many of us were earned decades ago by our laboring forefathers who risked everything to provide a better life for their children.
The copper miners gave Asarco every chance to treat them fairly, staying at their jobs for more than a year after their contract expired on June 4, 2004. Finally, they were forced to strike like their fathers and grandfathers before them.
By walking the picket line and voicing their complaints against unfair labor practices, they are forcefully, but peacefully saying "no" to conglomerates like Grupo Mexico, which, in the process of "breaking" American labor unions, are sending more and more American jobs and profits to foreign countries.
A similar act of courage and defiance -- American colonists standing up to their British overlords -- led to the founding of our nation. Instead of looking askance at the Asarco copper workers for striking, we should recognize their actions for what they are -- standing up for what they deserve.