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March 10, 2011

Union sprang up in the 1880s as a result of significant labor issues and abuses.  Child labor, excessive hours, low or no pay, unsafe work environment.  As a result we have a 5 day – 40 hour work week, child labor heavily regulated, and minimum wages.  Now unions have become targeted as the problem for our economic woes.  Our memories are short and we forget the financial industry and how it has gutted our economy without a single financial executive facing any sort of civil or criminal consequence except for a large bonus.

We bail out the banks but vilify our teachers and unions.  Do you think if we paid and incented teachers as we do our financial executives, our education system would be better?  For those that believe in less regulation and the free market gurus will improve labor’s relationship with management, please see recent laissez-faire approach to financial institutions.  Left to their own sense of regulation and what is right, companies and individuals tend to take advantage and abuse.  There is no moral compass when it comes to business primarily because capitalism depends on a healthy dose of greed.  Corporations claim to be socially responsible and donate to select charities but it is how a company treats its workers that is the real sign of its social responsibility.

Collective bargaining and pension plans are primary issues discussed within the union debate.  Some would pare back collective bargaining to encompass only pay.  However, remember if there is no regulation or redress on other issues, we are back to 1920 problems.  We should not be naïve and believe that a company will do what is “right” if not required to do what is “right”.  Corporate success is not measured by employee satisfaction but profits, cash flow and stock price.  I query what is the answer to proponents who advocate removing social safety nets.  How does Congress “promote the general welfare” when the message is every person for themselves?  If we don’t tax ourselves, how do we pay for services?  Some in Congress voted blindly and patriotically for emergency non-debated budgets for Iraq and Afghanistan.  Now those same elected officials want to watch every penny and don’t want to extend unemployment benefits or increased and necessary benefits for veterans but fight vociferously for tax cuts for the rich. 

 The power and money are at the center of this debate.  If Gov. Scott Walker can “win” this budget battle by achieving concessions from the unions, then he can begin to establish a platform for a bigger stage and discussion that he may be the Republican presidential candidate to take on Obama and solve the nation’s issues.  Please note Walker was Bush’s budget adviser.  The solution to the current economic woes is not to remove hard-fought rights from labor.  Some argue that US manufactured products are too expensive and not competitive due to higher labor costs.  If American workers want a bigger share of the manufacturing future, then to compete, unions must be busted or agree to roll back the clock on safety, health, and economic measures gained through union organizing since the 1920s.


Now the debate has broadened from Wisconsin to Ohio to Michigan.  The next few years should be a good case study in civil disobedience and democracy.  I just wonder whether the policy makers and politicians who propose to union-bust as the economic solution have considered who will consume the products and pay the bills and buy the houses when former union workers no longer earn a livable wage.  “‘reducing the income of labor is not a remedy for business depression, it is a direct and contributory cause.’ More unemployment?….This revolution will be televised.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2012 8:13 am

    Heya i am for the first time here. I came across this board and I find It
    truly useful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to give something back and help others like you aided me.

  2. February 6, 2013 3:45 am

    Many thanks for utilizing free time in order to write “WHY WE NEED UNIONS talklawblog”.
    Thanks once again -Gordon

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