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Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010

The War on Unions

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Workers who support anti-union Republicans are like those Indian scouts who worked for Gen. Custer. They shouldn’t be surprised when a massacre is declared.

During hard economic times, the people growing fat at the top used to live in fear that people at the bottom would become so angry they would rise up against those who were exploiting them.

Then they figured out all they had to do was keep the have-nots in misery and at each other’s throats.

It’s easy as pie. For two years, Republicans voted to block or scale back every administration program to speed America’s economic recovery and create jobs. To make life for the working class even harder, Republicans even voted against unemployment compensation for the jobless.

Working people became so angry about the slow economic recovery and lack of jobs they voted against the Democrats who’d promised to help them and for Republicans who were busy helping the super-rich.

Republicans figure if they can keep enough Americans out of work for two more years, they can make Barack Obama a one-term president.

Why else would Republican Gov.-elect Scott Walker declare it a “victory” for Wisconsin to lose $810 million in high-speed rail funds that would have created thousands of jobs and spurred economic development around the state?

Now we read about California, Washington, Florida and Illinois “winning” hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs that originally were supposed to come here. If they’re big winners, guess what that makes us.

So if Walker can lose nearly a billion dollars in new jobs and economic development before even taking office, surely his next priority would be to start creating those “jobs, jobs, jobs” promised during the campaign.

Nope. Guess again. For a week, Walker and Republican legislative leaders have made it clear their next priority will be an all-out war on unions and their workers.

Walker lobbed the first grenade, announcing he would consider everything from decertifying unions representing state workers to rewriting labor laws so the state would no longer be required to bargain with them.

That was followed by even more extreme statements from anti-union Republican legislators threatening to turn Wisconsin into one of those low-wage, redneck, right-to-work states.

In a way, working people have only themselves to blame. Whenever workers support the no-tax-increase pledges of Republican politicians, it’s only a matter of time before those promises come back to bite them. The bulk of taxes go to pay workers who provide public services.

Every time a union is demonized for somehow managing to hang onto decent wages or a few benefits for its employees, that’s an open invitation to those at the top to gut compensation for workers.

A Better Formula

Remember good times? Way back then, ordinary working people could hope to build a good life for their families, own their own homes, send their children to college, enjoy a comfortable retirement and maybe even leave a little something to their children.

It wasn’t just because business was doing well. It was the reason business was doing well. Because working-class families were earning good incomes with good benefits, they had more money to spend.

The more money they spent, the more goods were produced. More goods being produced meant more jobs. More jobs meant more workers with money to spend and on and on.

When the people at the top increase profits and governments lower taxes (overwhelmingly for the people at the top) by cutting jobs and gutting worker compensation, it reverses that upward spiral of a well-paid working class having money to spend and driving a healthy economy.

Government doesn’t make a profit, but it depends on revenues. Despite what Republicans say, those enormous budget deficits all states face right now aren’t caused by excessive government spending. They are caused by a lack of revenues. When millions of people are out of work or getting their wages slashed, tax revenues decline.

That’s why Walker’s declaration of war on state employees isn’t a solution. State employees are taxpayers. Gutting their wages continues the downward plunge of state tax revenues.

But under the politics of resentment, we have been conditioned by anti-worker politicians to resent any union that has succeeded in hanging onto decent health benefits or pensions for their workers.

Whenever we hear a union has protected its workers with adequate health coverage without enormous co-pays or—wonder of wonders—an actual pension, the proper response should be: “Bless you, my children.”

There was a time in this country when strong unions were building those kinds of benefits for all workers. It created one of the most successful economies in the history of the world.

If we can stop Republicans from blocking recovery and start sharing the wealth of this country again with those who do the work, we could start rebuilding an economy that works for everyone.

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