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Monday, January 30, 2012

The end of unions?

Thinking he was talking with a large Republican donor, Governor Walker of Wisconsin admitted that "we" now have "them" and that this will be the start the ball rolling across the nation to end collective bargaining and weaken unions. In doing so he revealed that it is an anti-union pro-big money bias and not the Wisconsin budget that is behind his move to take away collective bargaining rights from those union who did not endorse him for election (those that did are exempted the bill using a variety of "reasons). Union busting and not fiscal responsibility are at the core of moves to disenfranchise unions in a growing number of states.

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


jcdaniel62 said...

I listenened to the prank call with Gov Walker today. Great stuff, good times. I think that this recording should be played in classrooms and taught as a lesson of how government REALLY works. Everyone should hear this. So 110 years later, the pendulum swings back, full circle. Since it would seem we are destined to repeat history on a 100 year cycle, then the big question is: what’s coming in the next few years, or even weeks or months? Will we make the right choices for our Country, as they did a century ago? I hate to be pessimistic, but it’s not looking good. My biggest fear, and I’m being very sincere about this, is that our Nation will jump tracks, and end up going down the same path as Germany did in the 1920’s and 1930’s. I know this might seem like a real stretch of the imagination to anyone paying attention, but if you know your history, then you know the right ingredients: A despondent, embittered, nationalistic society looking for someone or something to focus its anger on. An ultra-conservative, ethnocentric, (cool… I used that word in a sentence, do I get extra credit?), rising to prominence political faction. Add a dash of 3rd world living conditions as standard. Throw in over-population, then just for fun, remove education and the ability to use that what them there fellers used back in the olden days… whadda they call it? ‘critter-cal thinkin’. Add all these together , pre heat the oven to 2045, and then… I hope I’m wrong.

coastielema said...

If public servants do not like the pay, benefits, and working conditions offered to them by the people as determined through the democratic process, nothing requires them to be public servants. This is why public servants are not slaves without collective bargaining, as soon-to-be-unemployed collective bargaining agents have suggested.
In return for lavish pay and benefits far exceeding private compensation, the unions provide a kickback in campaign contributions and muscle to their political benefactors, financed by the taxpayers. This inherent conflict of interest involved in government employee unions leads to oppressive political corruption, where there is no political limit as well as no market limit to the plunder of the public by government employee unions.


The process of collective bargaining­, as usually understood­, cannot be transplant­ed into the public service," Roosevelt wrote in 1937 to the National Federation of Federal Employees. Yes, public workers may demand fair treatment, wrote Roosevelt. But, he wrote, "I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place" in the public sector. "A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government­."

Anonymous said...

Read even closer and you will find that socialist unions were not democratic but populist...a key difference from today's capitalistic unions, where elections and local involvement trump national dictates. Today's capitalistic unions grew from a social movement but they are a key part of what Ecomist call the "cohesive" checks and balances of modern capitalism, which cannot exist without its own ecology which includes unions. As for Governor Walker, the total lack of compromise, the insisting the elimination of the core of unionism, collective bargaining, must be an emergency measure and not be debated fully as part of the larger budget or as a separate bill does border on, if it is not dictatorship. His attitude on this appear to be "my way" is the "what we were elected for" instead of the give and take that is government. - Byron Smith

Roy Hardin said...

The collective bargining process ensures that worker's voices are heard and not trampled down by employers who would rather not pay a decent salary or provide decent benefits. Without collective bargining, who will speak for the workers?