At Sojourners, it’s the 1930s all over again. Woody Guthrie is singing “This Land Is Your Land,” the Wobblies are leading the charge against predatory capitalism, and Hoovervilles are being constructed on the steps of the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin:
An estimated 30,000 people converged in Madison, Wisconsin’s Capitol Square and inside the Capitol building on Thursday to protest Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to meet the state’s budget crisis by breaking the public employees’ union. He’s pushing a bill through the state legislature that would almost totally eliminate the bargaining process for state workers. Adding to the drama, Democratic legislators left for Illinois, leaving the legislature without a quorum. Demonstrators included thousands of state employees, including teachers, prison guards, and others. The governor has threatened to call in the National Guard if state services are disrupted by protests. It’s an attack on unions and a worker fightback we haven’t seen in this country for many years.
Yes, well. What it actually is is an effort to bring under control an unbalanced state budget that has been thrown out of whack by, among other things, extraordinarily generous benefits for state workers. State workers in Wisconsin contribute nothing toward their pensions, and significantly less toward their health insurance than in the private sector. In fact, if Walker were to propose that state employee benefits were tied to private industry standards, they be looking at much bigger percentages than he is proposing. And he proposed making these changes in benefits in lieu of laying off workers. But instead of making a contribution to solving the budget problems that their benefits helped bring on, Wisconsin’s public employees are taking to the streets, demonstrating the new tone of civility the left has been talking up by comparing Walker to Hosni Mubarak and Adolf Hitler. And there’s Sojourners, ready to hit the barriers with them, despite all of its talk about civility in recent weeks.
Duane Shank goes on to quote Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas In Veritate, which argues for unionism in general but has nothing to say about the current situation (and to the extent that it says anything about the extent to which unions should be able to bargain about particular items, it makes the same mistake that people like the National Council of Churches does, claiming that a prudential policy issue is a matter that the church has some special insight into). He then concludes:
Similar anti-union legislation is being considered in several other states. The Pope’s core message — “the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past” – is one that should become the motto for a new union support campaign. As the assault on poor and working people accelerates in this country, support for unions is a struggle we should join. It’s a struggle we all benefit from. And it’s the right thing to do.
Right. We should help government workers continue to have a significantly higher standard of living than the people who pay them, including poor and people working in the private sector. We should help them engage in thuggery such as demonstrating at the homes of public officials with whom they disagree in a blatant attempt to intimidate. We should stand with them as they walk off their jobs, not because they are being oppressed, but because they might have to actually pay into their pension accounts. Folks, this isn’t the Great Railroad Strikes of 1877, and those teachers calling the governor a dictator aren’t being beaten by Pinkertons. They’re living better than most of the people who pay for their salaries and benefits, and doing so through a cozy arrangement whereby their mandatory union dues goes to elect the politicians who then keep them on an ever-ascending banquet at the public trough. If that’s who Sojourners wants to ally itself with, fine. But it ain’t 1934 any more.
UPDATE: Guess which neo-fascist conservative union-buster said this:
All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.
Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable. It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that “under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government.”
That would be Franklin Roosevelt.
(Quote via Anchor Rising.)