In the wake of sweeping Republican victories across the country, the Grand Old Party is using its moment in the sun to gun down a traditional rival, unions. While economist consider collective bargaining, or the right of groups to form to counter the forces of wealth or corporations, a necessary part of capitalism, conservative Republicans see no such things, saying that the marketplace is best without any chains or limitations.
The concept of workers rights came out of repression, and the economic realization that workers are capital themselves, an asset worthy of protection and inclusion our capitalistic system. In the Internet age, and the age of high profits ad the control of wealth by an increasingly small percentage of the population (just as was the case when modern unions formed, sometimes with blood shed in the process), workers have become numbers and their incomes or benefits, a liability instead of an asset.
Now Indiana, Ohio and other states have very real challenges to the essential role of unions in a capitalistic democracy, launched by new Republican lawmakers who never studied economics or social history, nor do they seem to care as long as the money behind their election is satisfied.
To read more and to read a related story from the Wall Street Journal, click on "read more" below.
Wisconsin may be drawing the national spotlight, but battles over the rights of teachers and others to collectively bargain, workers to be protected from unjust termination and collective unions to counter the billions of dollars spent by special interests in elections are forming coast to coast.
The battle has spread to Ohio, where the legislature is attempting to wipe our collective bargaining for state workers and make it legal for counties and cities to do the same. The mislabeled "right-to-work" which has come to mean a right to pay less, terminate at will and discriminate against minorities or seniors in the name of saving money or battling deficits, is also on the verge of spreading to traditionally union states, beyond the 22 existing states with Right-to-work legislation.
Forgotten in all this is that the sweep of Republican conservatism came with a wave of financing by corporate and individual interests for the first time unchecked by 110 years of campaign reform, in the wake of a US Supreme Court party line sweeping decision literally changing American politics in favor of he who has the most money to spend (most always Republican interests). The same power advantage that existed when the Robber Barrons were the Captains of Industry, US business interest went on an imperialistic expansion (including the manufactured Spanish-American War), Tea Pot Dome and other lop-sided power left workers without rights, protections and enslaved into a lower and poor class caste system.
Forgotten is why unions exist and what happens when business and industry are unchecked, again something economist are aware of but in an era where the public thinks history is dirty word, the public is being sold ignore or even refute based on slogans and promises from campaigning Republicans.
The weekend, 8 hour work days, livable wages, health insurance and freedom from being indentured to the company store (slaves to debts owed to employers) are hard fought for "rights" that exist only because there are unions and collective bargaining is a reality.
Now in an increasing number of states collective bargaining, union security and protection for workers are on the block, under cries of fears of collapse if Republicans cannot get what they demand to "balance budgets."
Education, medical protection, social issues and workers rights are in real and growing danger..
"It's crunch time for unions" writes the Wall Street Journal in today's editions (click here). A few excerpts are presented below:
U.S. labor unions are facing the most direct challenge to their political and financial clout since Ronald Reagan broke the air-traffic-controllers union 30 years ago. Republicans are trying to roll back the bargaining and dues-collecting powers not just of public-employee unions but also of groups that represent auto workers and carpenters. Right-to-work legislation is on the floor, and in many cases expected to be passed by Republican majorities in several traditionally union states, cutting at unionism at its roots.
"We have finally elected people who are doing what they said they would do," said U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, the newly elected Republican from Wisconsin, who supports efforts to trim labor's powers. "I certainly hope that voters will stand by Gov. Walker when he makes these tough decisions."
Some Republicans and conservative groups also argue that pro-union laws and policies are putting states in the industrial Midwest at a disadvantage in the competition for jobs with right-to-work states, where unions are weak and cannot compel workers to join or pay dues.
"Being a right-to-work state would bring jobs to Indiana," said Republican State Rep. Jerry Torr, a sponsor of the right-to-work measure in Indiana.
The argument is that for economic growth to occur and to deal with large deficits, the end of union power is necessary. But the facts may refute that...
Democrats and labor leaders are denouncing the legislative moves as an effort to dismantle the labor movement and deprive the Democratic Party of one of its largest sources of money. Unions spent about $400 million on ads and get-out-the-vote efforts to help elect Mr. Obama and other Democrats in 2008.
"Stripping away workers' rights is something we cannot as Democrats allow to happen," said Wisconsin Senate minority leader Mark Miller, a Democrat who fled the state Thursday in his 2002 Chevy Prizm.
AFL-CIO Chief Economist Ron Blackwell says unions are prepared to bargain over financial issues. But proposals to curb or end collective-bargaining rights "pose an existential threat to collective bargaining," he said.
First published 1-23-11