Friday, March 4, 2011

The War Against Workers

Like many Americans, I have been watching the anti-union legislation being pushed in several states over the past couple of weeks.  Despite being framed as a budget issue, I fail to see how anyone can call this anything but union-busting.  With Wisconsin being at the forefront of this battle, Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker maintains that these steps are necessary to balance the state's budget.  Clearly, a balanced budget is an ideal that all states should strive for but Governor Walker is not being quite honest about the situation.

It is seldom mentioned that the governor started his term a few months ago with a surplus.  What happened to that surplus?  It was given away in the form of tax breaks to wealthy multi-national corporations.  Now the middle class is being asked to pay for those tax breaks.  The union members have already agreed to lower pay and decreased benefits.  They have said that they would concede even more if only the right to bargain collectively were left intact.  Collective bargaining allows workers to ensure that they work in a safe environment, receive proper training, fair wages and work in a good general environment.  Loss of collective bargaining gives all of the power to business which apparently, is right where Governor Walker thinks it belongs. 

Unions do something else, too.  They get out the vote.  And not generally for Republicans.  If Republicans can break the unions, they stand a much higher chance at retaining and gaining seats in the legislature.  Their goal is a permanent Republican majority.  It is widely known that the Republican party largely supports big business and vice versa.  A permanent Republican majority is a fast pathway to a pure corporatocracy, also known as fascism. 

So what does the America of a permanent Republican majority look like?  We hear from them constantly that they just want to cut governmental "waste, fraud and abuse".  This "waste, fraud and abuse" includes such things as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, public education, college grants, food safety and environmental regulation.  Cuts of this nature will lead to an America filled with poor, ignorant, uneducated, unhealthy workers who have no say in their own lives.  But that makes us oh so much easier to control now, doesn't it?

Even more interesting is the way they are able to pit public employees against the privately-employed.  Union rights are framed as something "taken" from the rest of us; an unfair advantage.  I am continually surprised at the number of people who actually believe this.  Public employee pensions and health care are not a gift paid for by taxpayers.  David Cay Johnston at explains:
Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin' s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.
How can that be? Because the "contributions" consist of money that employees chose to take as deferred wages – as pensions when they retire – rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services.
Thus, state workers are not being asked to simply "contribute more" to Wisconsin' s retirement system (or as the argument goes, "pay their fair share" of retirement costs as do employees in Wisconsin' s private sector who still have pensions and health insurance). They are being asked to accept a cut in their salaries so that the state of Wisconsin can use the money to fill the hole left by tax cuts and reduced audits of corporations in Wisconsin.
Unions in the United States are responsible for the 40-hour work week, worker safety, minimum wage, child labor laws, overtime pay and weekends.  The fact that unions can bargain for a fair wage means a decent living wage for the rest of us.  Unions are not the enemy.  They are not taking anything from us.  They are fighting every day on the front lines of the People vs. Corporations and they deserve our support.

1 comment:

  1. I think what pisses me off the most about all of this is the teachers. If there's one thing you don't do, you don't go after the people that go in there every day and work 15 hour days teaching our kids.

    I would go on but Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe's character on The West Wing) has described it so eloquently here: