My thoughts are with Wisconsin today.
While I consider myself a moderate who is all for cutting wasteful government spending, I don't understand how doing so entails banning collective bargaining rights for workers, public or private. Maybe the Wisconsin legislators (and its governor) think that these rights pertain only to what workers are paid and that, by removing these rights, public sector workers will be forced to adhere to a market-determined payscale more in line with fiscal reality. But then we have to face the fact that the Wisconsin legislators and governor are woefully misinformed about the full consequences of collective bargaining, consequences that extend far beyond the simple issue of pay increases and pensions.
You see, collective bargaining rights are what make sure that, when you are hospitalized, the nurse in charge of your medications and, really, your life
, is not assigned so many patients that she can no longer do her job effectively. Collective bargaining rights are what guarantee that your child
will not be in a classroom containing more than, say, 25 students. Collective bargaining rights ensure that the fireman who is trying to save your home
is properly trained and fully rested.
|These don't look like lazy public workers to me.|
We would all like to believe that these issues would be addressed anyway, in the name of common sense. But, when unbridled capitalism rules, common sense is not in charge. Profit is. Capitalism, while an excellent system for controlling the production and flow of goods and services, does need some boundaries; and mechanisms such as reasonable government regulation and collective bargaining provide those boundaries.
Are there corruption and abuses in unions? Sure! Hey, I grew up in NJ, for heaven's sake. I spent my formative years reading about Jimmy Hoffa. Go after corruption in unions, by all means. But collective bargaining is not, de facto, corrupt.
Are there employers who treat their non-unionized employees well? Of course. But one of the reasons they do so is because they have the threat of a union hanging over their heads, as it were. My local grocery store pays its cashiers 10 dollars an hour, well above minimum wage. Why? Because it doesn't want its employees to become so dissatisfied that they band together and collectively bargain
for decent wages and benefits. Remove that possibility, and watch those wages fall.
I do agree with Jenn at Juggling Life that a lot of this enmity towards collective bargaining and other union rights stems from envy and resentment, resentment felt by non-unionized workers who are being shafted left and right by their employers. I heard one Walker supporter interviewed on the radio the other day. She said, essentially, "These public workers have pensions and I don't. Why should I have to keep on working hard and they don't? That's not fair."
The question she should be asking is, "Why, after working all my life, do I have nothing and they have their pensions?"
And the answer would be that she did not have collective bargaining. She had no rights. She worked her butt off, with no guarantees ever. And that
is what is not fair.