2011 Wisconsin Protests: Pros and Cons of Unions
The following is a guest post from Lisa Shoreland. If you are interested in guest posting at Geek Politics, check out the guidelines here.
Honestly, I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know anything besides cheese ever came out of Wisconsin. But in all seriousness, Wisconsin, like many other states is currently facing a budget crisis. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve projected a deficit of $3.6 billion for the 2013 fiscal year, and their governorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s proposal for closing the gap has been met with stiff opposition from the democrats and unions.
Details of the proposed legislation would require state workers to contribute part of their salaries toward covering pension costs and health care premiums totaling 18.4%. Certainly, any workers facing 18.4% decrease in their salaries are going to be upset. But thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not even the main issue. The main issue is a disagreement over the power of collective bargaining rights. Certain provisions in the proposed legislation are aimed at reducing the collective bargaining rights of unions, an issue that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sit well with them or democratic leadership. A compromise was proposed which would keep the first two provisions while eliminating the third, which was rejected by Walker.
Unions certainly arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t without their inner struggles. They have been criticized for years for taking things too far, establishing systems which reward seniority and foster laziness. Like any institution, self-serving agendas have come to dominate their actions. On the other hand, unions are the primary tool of promoting workerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rights. After the financial crisis of 2008, unions immediately took a position calling for reforms to the health care and financial industries. They are the only force representing worker interests in a system that has come to be dominated by big money.
There are equally compelling arguments against unions as well. For one, workers that donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t belong to a union are typically seen as being the have-nots, receiving lower pay and having fewer benefits than their union counterparts. Also, unions have been blamed as being partially responsible for the migration of jobs from America to Asia and other markets. The economist, Milton Friedman, has theorized that the increase in wages brought about by unions creates a comparative advantage, through lower wages, in countries where unions donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t exist. In addition, the larger salaries associated with unions reduces the number of available jobs within a market. Lastly, unions have been criticized for implementing ineffective policies concerning equality in the workplace.
Regardless of what your personal feelings about unions are, it is hard not to be appalled at the actions of our leadership in handling this issue. Some of the more despicable strategies have included:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ A response by President Obama attacking Scott Walker as trying to bust the unions. The federal government has long acted to reduce the sovereignty of individual states, and stateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rights were the major issue leading to the Civil War. Will the leaders in Washington ever realize that people want to maintain the original intent of the Constitution in matters pertaining to stateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rights?
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Governor Scott Walker is in a position where he has some tough decisions to make and with any decision as big as this there is going to be detractors, especially from political enemies. However, the estimated 70~100k protestors in Madison represent a grass roots effort to fight the legislation. DoesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t Scott Walker have a responsibility to listen to the people? IsnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t his refusal to compromise in opposition to the concepts which have made America so exceptional to begin with?
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ In an effort to block the legislation, 14 Wisconsin democrats fled the state. In recent years there have been increased efforts by both parties to block legislation using these dubious kinds of tactics. Regardless of what ideologies you hold near and dear, getting the job done takes priority. How are Americans supposed to feel when they see their leadership acting like a bunch of babies?
Perhaps the most ridiculous point of all is the fact that this supposedly union-busting legislation lacks any real teeth. As proposed by Governor Walker, the proposed restrictions on collective bargaining fail to address the unionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ability to negotiate increased wages. Without this measure, the restrictions fail to address the primary mechanism meant to balance the budget, because the unions can simply push to raise their wages to offset the costs brought on by the pension and health insurance measures. Although it is likely posturing on the part of Walker to do this, it is a tough argument to make in favor of legislation that cannot be effectively enforced.
Bio: Lisa Shoreland is currently a resident blogger at Go College, where recently she’s been researching parent plus loans as well as physical therapy grants. In her spare time, she enjoys creative writing, practicing martial arts, and taking weekend trips.