Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Unions Under Attack

The attack on Labor that started in Wisconsin has begun to spread throughout the Midwest and, if uncorrected and halted, will continue to affect more States and Municipalities throughout the U.S.

In Ohio we are finding some more scary legislation being pushed through State Legislators that dial public workers back 50-100 years on their bargaining rights. From the NY TIMES;

“The measure affects safety workers, teachers, nurses and a host of other government personnel. It allows unions to negotiate wages but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. It gets rid of automatic pay increases and replaces them with merit raises or performance pay. Workers would also be banned from striking.”

The ban from striking is one of the aspects of the bill that should be the most frightening. This basically is neutering public employee unions from being anything more than a working group that talks about wages. What is the point of a Union without ability to back up their needs? I sincerely doubt that this will hold and if it does, Unions will not let go of this valuable negotiating tool (and pretty much understood right) and will illegally strike. Hopefully, in this scenario, if it is taken to court that the action of the State will be found unconstitutional. In fact, this, to me at least, seems completely contrary to the National Labor Relations Act which was passed in 1935 “to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.” Specifically this seems contrary to two sections;

Sec. 7. [§ 157.] Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all such activities except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment as authorized in section 8(a)(3) [section 158(a)(3) of this title].

Sec. 13. [§ 163. Right to strike preserved] Nothing in this Act [subchapter], except as specifically provided for herein, shall be construed so as either to interfere with or impede or diminish in any way the right to strike or to affect the limitations or qualifications on that right.

With Nation-wide school authorities bracing for layoffs, tightening on wage negotiations in Nebraska, similar attacks in Indiana, and professors in Michigan and Wisconsin being singled out for attacks by Conservatives and Conservative “research groups” these are truly trying times.

I know that the Daily Show already referenced this, but I feel it needs to be shown again;

Hopefully this will be a temporary situation. People seem to forget that the Law is mutable and can change. How I see this playing out is that there will continue to be a massive movement against what is seen as the “entitled” public employees. Their real plight will be eventually seen by the public and while some of these workers will be culled (possibly with good reason) the majority of rights and “entitlements” for public sector workers will eventually be returned. In fact, in Ohio, “many Democrats, along with other opponents, have vowed to lead a ballot-repeal effort if the measure passes.

I expect that the next election cycle will have huge blowback for Republicans nationwide and that within the next 5 years, any anti-Labor legislation will be overturned by new legislation. This is a hope, but it will take the efforts of progressive groundswell and actual action.

Let’s see it happen America, you can do better than this.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wisconsin Stop Time

I feel the need to comment on the Wisconsin situation. Things have taken an interesting legislative turn and I really want to address that. It turns out that Wisconsin State Senators have pushed a bill though that legislative body that effectively strips Union members and State workers from collective bargaining. Some may ask how this was possible but to explain it simply, the Republican Senators just approached the legislative problem with a side-step.

For those who haven’t been paying attention to the happenings in Wisconsin, here are the basics. Municipalities and states across the Nation are finding budgetary shortfalls and scrambling to balance their budgets or at least look like they are trying to. Wisconsin is no different.

The Governor of Wisconsin, an honorable Mr. Walker, targeted Teacher’s Unions as, at least, one of the primary reasons for the budgetary shortfalls and while education does make up a large percentage it is strange that the state would want to make an occupation that is very hard and is already not attractive to new graduates and talents even less attractive. This is especially confusing to me since I see Education as a necessary investment in the future.

The Governor and the Teachers Union went through negotiations and the union, recognizing the fact that everyone needs to tighten their belts, conceded to many of Governor Walker’s proposals but the largest issue of contention remained something that to me was ludicrous to even be on the table; collective bargaining. As some British friends I was explaining this situation to said; “Without collective bargaining, what is the point of Unions?”

So the Governor pushed the issue and made it a part of his budget. There is a majority of Republicans in the Senate and the Assembly. There is such a majority of Republicans in the Assembly that if a measure passed through the Senate, odds are the 60-38 majority will pass that sucker right through. Democratic Senators did not want that happening and decided to flee the legislative body to stall the process.

The logic behind Democratic Senators evading the Budgetary proceedings was that the Republican majority (19-14) needed a full quorum of at least 20 senators present to vote on the bill and move it forward. The logical, and relatively politically shady, move that the Republican State Senators did was to remove that section from the budgetary bill and create its own bill, which doesn’t need any such attendance.

For the short term, this works out well for the Wisconsin State Republicans but the long term blow-back will spell destruction for them. This is a very dangerous situation and the political tactic will ostracize the State from many of the more liberal leaning States and Unions throughout the nation. Many even feel like this is really an attack on Democrats to make Wisconsin a huge Republican stronghold. I am unsure how to fight this process, but be assured, I am a little ticked off by it all, it is VERY short sighted and the children will suffer.