It’s amazing how little you can know about a subject, despite following the news. Unions and union rights, etc. are still not entirely clear to me, but at least I understand what collective bargaining is. I figured it was one of those legal terms that didn’t mean what it seems to. Nope, it means bargaining together, which is the whole point of a union. I think I was confusing “collective bargaining” with “binding arbitration”. Pretty big mistake.
So when they say that Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is attacking unions, yes, yes he is. That’s inarguable.
Joe Geni had been trying to convince me that it was a purely political move. I didn’t buy into it, because it made sense to me to go after state employees for receiving benefits that non-public employees don’t get to have. I still wonder if the job security and benefit that people have in the public sector are fair when no one else seems to have them, but perhaps it makes less sense to raze everyone down and more sense to figure out how we can accommodate the new structure of the job market to give people benefits that they need.
But back to the politics. A week or so ago, I glossed over a FOX News article by Chris Stirewalt where he takes the side of Gov. Walker. Reading it more closely, Stirewalt’s argument is fairly clear: unions are unfair because they get a lot of money that helps Democrats.
And since unions give almost entirely to Democrats, that means the lack of dues payments from the federal payroll – now more than $15 billion a month for nearly 3 million employees – leaves a lot of campaign cash on the table.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that a fifth of all campaign donations to the fugitive lawmakers in the past two election cycles came from public workers.
For national Democrats, the stakes are just as high. The more than 2 million civilian federal workers available for union organization are small fry compared to what’s going on at the state and local level.
All right, Stirewalk, great, Democrats get money from unions. And Republicans? It’s common knowledge that they are supported by businesses. Is it fair to criticize businesses or try to limit their involvement in the political process? Nope, that infringes upon free speech. If businesses are somehow legally people (which is not an entirely agreed upon notion), those are some pretty damn big people. There’s a reason Godzilla fights Mothra, not moths. You need some sort of balance. It’s the whole reason for unions, to have a mass that can stand up to the mass of business itself.
Let’s say that public workers are getting too many benefits. Fine, that’s possible, so perhaps they shouldn’t. But to balance it out by taking away their right to organize doesn’t make any sense. It just means that if you’re then at a disadvantage for being in a public job instead of an advantage. Doesn’t balance it out, it just tilts the see-saw the other way.
The right to organize and join unions is in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23, Section 4:
Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
This is a document that the United States, including Eleanor Roosevelt, helped to craft. The United States voted in favor of it in 1948. To try to destroy unions is anti-American. And that’s all that collective bargaining means: bargaining together.
Even if Wisconsin’s public employees are getting more benefits than they should, it doesn’t mean that Wisconsin’s governor has any legitimacy in trying to take away something that the United States has declared to be a universal human right.
Mind you, I’m not going to go out and join the Wobblies.
Should people *have* to be in a union and pay dues? I don’t know.
Should unions get everything they want? No. But collective bargaining, as I realized, is not binding arbitration.
Do the benefits that some overpaid unionized workers get make us less competitive in the global market? Seems logical to me.
I still don’t feel like I’m well-enough versed in the subject, but at least I can say this: Screw you, Gov. Walker. Fight on, protesters.
I’ll credit the March 3, 2011 episode of The Daily Show with helping me come to some of these conclusions.