Saturday, February 19, 2011
Workers of the World, Unite
The unrest in Wisconsin - legislative conflicts that have led Democrats to literally flee the state - is troubling for the apparent impasse it presents in an ideological battle about the rights of workers, especially public employees. There is such contempt for government right now that the average voter is not very sympathetic to the collective bargaining rights of workers - if they work for the government. The biggest problem in this Wisconsin budget battle is that the state workers have done nothing to lead to the deficit problems. Like much of our government budget issues, Wisconsin is in the hole almost entirely because of lost revenue, not expanded pay and benefits. This is a troubling and divisive issue well articulated this week by Ezra Klein in the Washington Post.
The Democrats and the state workers are willing to negotiate the benefits issues - as they should. Even if state workers are making less than the public sector - and they are - no one should be exempt from contributing to pension and benefits programs. And if it were that simple the Democrats would be back and voting. Yet, this attack on the rights of workers to collectively bargain is simply unacceptable. There has been an erosion of wages and consumer power among the middle class - including state workers - for more than two decades now. And it is accelerating.
No economic recovery is going happen in the American economy unless workers needs are reasonably addressed by employers and situations. The whole thing reminds me of the cold, heartless action of Josiah Bounderby in Dickens Hard Times when dealing with Stephen Blackpool and the organizing of "The Hands"in the factories. Despite Bounderby's portrayal of the workers as lazy bumpkins who seek to avoid work while dining on turtle soup and venison stew with their gold spoons, the average American - the average person - is always and forever looking for an honest day's wages for an honest day's work.
And that cannot be compromised.