So will the attack on unions succeed? I don’t know. But anyone who cares about retaining government of the people by the people should hope that it doesn’t. – Paul Krugman
It’s interesting to see that “moderate” Republicans are offering a compromise, proving some people understand what taking collective bargaining away from any union means. Gov. Walker is having none of it, even if his argument to gut the public unions is a canard. There simply is no budget crisis in Wisconsin.
I joined my first union in my teens. AFTRA, then Actors’ Equity, then AGVA, then SAG, all performance unions that made great wages and benefits a reality when I was still young enough to have little to care about. But I knew if I hit the road on the way to Broadway without a union card, once in New York my chances as a non-union performer would be grim. Were the unions perfect? Far from it. When I worked under AGVA in Radio City Music Hall it wasn’t the greatest experience. Back when Broadway shows tried out in cities far away from New York, AE didn’t keep rehearsals from being overly long, outside of the rules. But we sucked it up, because we wanted the show to be the best it could be. Actors’ Equity also made sure we weren’t performing on concrete stages, which could ruin your career. What the performing unions did was give even chorus members a say, protecting the little guy against the producers trying to get their money back at any cost. I was lucky, because I worked in good situations my entire performing career before and on Broadway, including in parts and as an understudy, right up until a very sudden swooping in of stage fright changed my life forever. Long after I left Broadway and performing, unions started to come under fire for being part of the problem of ticket prices in New York. It’s a fight that still goes on as stars take the place of unknowns in parts that used to give people like me a way out of chorus, even as those stars often don’t show up for work, while unions protect the delinquent performer’s place.
I’ve also worked on the other side. Back in the ’90s when the LA Weekly was trying to organize part of its staff, I argued against unionization, because the publisher and executive staff at the time offered a very fair playing field with great wages, benefits and freedom. The story of my non-union gas technician husband is another example, which I’ve told countless time, but in both of these cases it was the threat of unionization that helped keep management engaged and fair.
The unions in Wisconsin under siege from the Right are about something quite different. It’s close to the last stand of unions and the power they’ve enjoyed in America, right up until companies started outsourcing to get around what they gave to people: a middle class wage, benefits and a pension to protect workers through their life and into retirement.
Globalization was bound to change unions, with the latest assault moving to the public sector foreseeable.
Paul Krugman is correct when he says the fight in Wisconsin is about power. The Right wants to put more of it in the hands of corporations and politicians who want to gut taxes for Americans so that the government no longer functions for us.
In any case, however, Mr. Ryan was more right than he knew. For what’s happening in Wisconsin isn’t about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker’s pretense that he’s just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power. What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin ““ and eventually, America ““ less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that’s why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators’ side.
[…] But Mr. Walker isn’t interested in making a deal. Partly that’s because he doesn’t want to share the sacrifice: even as he proclaims that Wisconsin faces a terrible fiscal crisis, he has been pushing through tax cuts that make the deficit worse. Mainly, however, he has made it clear that rather than bargaining with workers, he wants to end workers’ ability to bargain.
[…] And now Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to get rid of public-sector unions, too.
There’s a bitter irony here. The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America’s oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence.
The financial imbalance in this country has been haywire for a long time. Pres. Obama and the Democrats made it even worse through the health care bill, giving power to private insurance companies. Then in one of the laziest moves I’ve seen in modern politics, Obama and the Democrats extended tax cuts to the wealthiest without a fight. We’ll worry about that later, Pres. Obama said. His shaking fist at moneyed power a laughable threat from a man who hasn’t stood up to corporations yet.
I still remember when it was found out he’d lied to Iowans during the presidential primary season. Candidate Obama’s cozy relationship with nuclear power a signal. But to be fair, it’s not like Hillary Clinton wasn’t a friend to corporations. John Edwards was hated because of his reputation for taking on corporations, but look what a schmuck he turned out to be. In American politics, you don’t get ahead unless you’re sucking up to the American oligarchy.
Our political system no longer seeks out injustice to right it. It’s been taken over by corporations who have shed American interests in place of the shareholder. There is no economic patriotism any longer. The Chamber of Commerce makes elected public officials, even presidents, come in to court them. The Chamber having little interest to jump in to be partners in America’s remaking.
Back in 2009, when everyone was laughing at the rise of the Tea Party, I continued to make the case that their presence would be a political earthquake. The midterms made that manifest. Now the Tea Party mentality threatens the most important foundation of the middle class yet: unions. The video here from “This Week” is instructive of the Tea Party’s presence in the latest debate.
If Gov. Walking and the Right win in Wisconsin, unions in America will be dealt a crushing blow. It might not be a death blow, but it would be a near terminal wound none the less.
No doubt what this would mean for the Democratic Party is horrifying for political leaders to consider, but it’s being forced on them anyway. That’s because the message Pres. Obama and the Democrats sent in December when they extended the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest message offered the Right yet another opening to attack the middle class.
Taking this argument national, at some point someone on the Left will have to make the case for raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans in order to rectify our financial insolvency. Reagan and Clinton both bit the tax hike bullet, but will Obama?