"What does not change / is the will to change"
--Charles Olson, "The Kingfishers"

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Public-sector unions are not the problem

    New Jersey's public employee unions are starting to fight back by doing what working people should have been doing in this country for years. They are taking it to the streets. The teachers were in Trenton last week; today, it was the police and fire unions. Who's next? As glad as I am to see them take to the street, we have to face the fact that these rallies lack the unity and sense of larger purpose that the Wisconsin fight has had. Workers in the Badger state face the prospect of being stripped of bargaining rights, even after giving the governor every concession he has requested. The issue there is the basic right to organize and act collectively. Here the talk is about saving pensions and medical benefits and preventing layoffs -- worthy goals -- but not necessarily ones that will connect with the larger swath of put-upon workers in the state. And not necessarily ones that will shift public opinion. The teachers, firefighters, police and other public workers need to rally together over several days and they need to frame their demands as more than just protecting what the public has come to see as their cushy benefits. The issue is the final assault on the compact that has governed American working live for 60 or so years, but that has been eroding for the last three decades. The collapse of the private-sector union movement, the labor movements disconnection from the larger social movements of its day (think of the bulk of unionists on Vietnam, civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, etc.) and the general assault with government help by corporate America and presidents and Congresses of both parties has left the public-sector unions as the only strong unions in the nation. The public-sector workers need to reconnect to workers at large, find a way to cut past the jealousy that has far too many New Jersey residents saying "take away their benefits." That kind of demand is short-sighted and will only continue the race to the bottom on wages and benefits that has American workers earning, at best, what they were earning 10 years ago, while the top one-tenth of 1 percent of earners -- about 300,000 Americans -- saw their wages more than triple. Public-sector unions are not the problem. The problem is the lack of private-sector unionization and a legal structure that is decidedly hostile toward union building. This is the argument they should be leading with: Stand with us now and we will stand with you later as you fight to revive the working and middle classes.
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3 comments:

reinkefj said...

"New Jersey's public employee unions" ARE part of the problem. Part!

This a corruption.

These Unions "donate" huge amounts of money to political campaigns. Usually Democratic. They supply free labor. And, muscle.

Then, they turn the page and "negotiate" "agreements" with the politicians that they elected.

It's always been "wrong". But, now it's reached absurd levels.

We need a systemic fix.

IMHO, the Gooferment should not be running or operating anything. And, certainly not extracting wealth from real people by force.

Anonymous said...

Well, of course a libertarian would be on the side of our corporate overlords and against unions because libertarianism is the creation of billionaires who don't want to pay taxes and who hate their workers and regard them as a nuisance to be crushed.
Teachers' unions negotiate with school boards not the legislators, police and firefighters negotiate contracts with their supervisors, not the state legislators. According to right wingers and libertarian millionaires, public employees have no rights, should be barred from forming unions or being able to negotiate for their wages and benefits. In other words, public employees should be compliant and obedient serfs who know their places and should just shut up and go away. In other words, you lose your first amendment rights in the workplace. Sounds very un-American to me. Unions level the playing field and allow for some say of workers in their place of employment. The unionization rate for the US is about 11.9% and falling because of rampant union busting and laws which throw up road blocks to unionizing. The unionization rates in Canada and western Europe are more than double our rates and in some countries like Finland (80%+), the unionization rates are off the charts compared to us.
Union PAC money is dwarfed by corporate PAC money; the corporations can spend many times more than unions on political campaigns, especially after the Supreme Court ruling which has allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns. Exxon-Mobile alone could outspend all the unions. Corporate America has thousands of lobbyists to assault Congress, it has billions to fund politicians' campaigns, it has direct access to the politicians, it gets invited in to write the legislation for bills (such as Medicare Part D) and it can blackmail congressmen by threatening to move their businesses out of state or out of country.
Christie and Walker want to bust unions, end of story, it has nothing to do with state budgets or deficits.

reinkefj said...

"Teachers' unions negotiate with school boards not the legislators, police and firefighters negotiate contracts with their supervisors, not the state legislators."

While technically correct about teacher's unions versus school boards, you overlook that the fact is that it's all about politics. And, the "rules" of the negotiation are set in the various legislative bodies. The legislators are beholding to the unions for contributions, free labor on campaigns, and ultimately votes.

Police and firefighters also negotiate with basically the politicians that they elected.

You can put whatever costumes and lipstick you want on it; it's still a corrupt process that sticks the taxpayer with the bill.

"According to right wingers and libertarian millionaires, public employees have no rights"

I can only speak for one little L libertarian and no one shoudl have more rights than any one else. No more and no less.

Permit me to ignore all the prattle about how wonderful unions are.

"Union PAC money is dwarfed by corporate PAC money; the corporations can spend many times more than unions on political campaigns"

I'm no fan of corporations. They too are a creation of the Gooferment and the system that allows them to contribute to politicians is corrupt also. "Regulatory capture" and "Political de facto bribery" are well documented.

The root cause of almost ALL problems is the Gooferment.

So why do we allow this to happen?