The Real Agenda in Wisconsin
I’ve been reading some amazingly uniformed commentary on the pro union show of strength in Wisconson. The comments evidence a lack of understanding of both the facts of the matter in Wisconsin, as well as of the subject of collective bargaining. An understanding of both point to the reality that Governor Scott Walker’s agenda is less about the budget deficit and more about weakening unions for political gain.
1. The main focus of the proposal is to strip workers of the right to collectively bargain.
The governor has proposed a bill that would mainly do two things: first, it would require public sector employees to contribute more to their pensions and health care costs (effectively, salary cuts); second, the proposal would strip away the rights of public sector employees to collectively bargain.
Let’s be very clear. The union has agreed to the salary cuts. Period.
So the only real issue on the table is collective bargaining. What is the right to collective bargain? It is the right of workers to organize and negotiate with their employers to determine wages, hours, work rules, and working conditions. This is the whole point of unionizing. Take this away, and you take away the unions. I am envisioning Mr. Burns here, rubbing his hands together with an evil laugh—-> this is obviously the desired outcome.
2. The governor’s proposal exempts unions and groups that backed him during the election. Sniff sniff. Do you smell the politics?
3. The focus of the Tea Party-backed governor and legislature in Wisconsin has been to shift the focus of discourse about the state budget deficit from those who actually caused it, to state workers, in an effort to demonize unions.
In a special session the week before the anti-union bill was proposed, Wisconsin instituted new tax breaks for corporations. Good thing, because these corporations need to save up all their money and send it to the Chamber of Commerce for use in demonizing Democratic candidates in the next election. Recall that the Supreme Court has granted corporations the same right that I have to contribute to political campaigns. Corporation = Nicole. We’re the same. Oh, except when it comes to paying taxes. I pay taxes, corporations not so much.
“Republicans would rather go after teachers and other public employees than have us look at the pay of Wall Street traders, private-equity managers, and heads of hedge funds — many of whom wouldn’t have their jobs today were it not for the giant taxpayer-supported bailout.
Last year, America’s top thirteen hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion each. One of them took home $5 billion. Much of their income is taxed as capital gains — at 15 percent — due to a tax loophole that Republican members of Congress have steadfastly guarded.
If the earnings of those thirteen hedge-fund managers were taxed as ordinary income, the revenues generated would pay the salaries and benefits of over 5 million teachers. Who is more valuable to our society — thirteen hedge-fund managers or 5 million teachers? Let’s make the question even simpler. Who is more valuable: One hedge fund manager or one teacher?”
Moreover, in spite of Conservative propaganda to the contrary, Wisconsin and other states are in the financial mess they are in, not because some retired teacher is living off a measly $19,000/year pension, but because of the economic deregulation that fueled the housing bubble that caused the financial crisis.
3. Koched Again.
Koch Industries was one of largest contributors to the campaign of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. The Koch brothers, are, of course, the multi millionaires who created the so-called grass movement Tea Party (see infographic).
The group is also working in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. Grass roots, tea baggers? really?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the more foolish comments that I’ve read – that collective bargaining is just a “talking point” for unions.
In response, here’s a partial, partial, list of accomplishments achieved by the blood, sweat, tears, and struggle of the common workers who came together as unions, to bargain collectively. These rights began as private contractual rights, and have become law so that all of us enjoy the benefits:
1. The right to engage in concerted activity for mutual aid and protection (Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act).
2. The right not to be enjoined by Federal courts when engaging in such concerted activity (Section 4 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act).
3. The right to refuse to perform abnormally dangerous work (Section 502 of the National Labor Relations Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act).
4. The right to equal pay for equal work (the Equal Pay Act).
5. The right to a minimum wage and to overtime pay after forty hours work in a week (the Fair Labor Standards Act).
6. The right not to be discriminated against because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability in hiring, promotion, or discharge (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and other laws).
7. The right to free speech about union affairs, and to a minimum of due process when disciplined by a union (Title I of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act).
8. The right to pension security (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act).