Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has announced that he will sign what is called “right to work” legislation. To be clear, this legislation enables workers at union work places to opt out of union membership and dues. Under this law, some workers will be able to benefit from union negotiation without paying dues. Eventually, no one will want to pay dues, unions will disappear, and workers will be left on their own to take what management will give them. Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) cheered the law saying: "The public widely supports worker freedom and the potential positive impact to the state's economy can no longer be ignored."
In reality, as union membership has fallen in the U.S., so have wages. Take a minute and review the chart in this article from Huffington Post. From 1968 to the present, middle class income and union membership has declined at almost the same pace. I could call that many things. It is not freedom.
P.S. Daily Kos's great labor writer Laura Clawson gives her take on the parallel decline of unions and wages while also critiquing Nicholas Kristof for being late to the the party.
Conservatives carp about Americans who “depend on the government.” What they don’t say is that most of these people are working. Between an unlivable minimum wage and jobs that offer less than 40 hours, they qualify for government programs to support with food, housing, and medical care. They aren’t living lives of luxury.
Who really benefits from this system? Large corporations and the investor class who rely on working people to underwrite the subhuman salaries they pay. Laura Clawson of Daily Kos explains how raising the minimum wage would help workers while lowering the deficit. Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker says, says we shouldn’t talk about the minimum wage because it’s not a real issue. Is the family where both parents work two jobs just to get by a real issue?
Democrats are far from perfect, but they’re the best bet working people and the middle class have in this new age of Robber Barons and the slaves they have representing them in federal, state, and local government. There is nothing conservative about rigging the system to make the wealthiest even richer. We need a wealth tax.
The U.S. Department of Labor has a great resource page on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911. 146 workers – most women – died because they were locked in a nine story building that broke out in flames. Doors were locked because their managers wanted to stop petty theft of felt scrap that could be resold.
Two years later, conditions improved at the plant. Why? Because the International Ladies Garment Workers Union went on strike. We need to remember such heroes, especially when we have “leaders” like Governor Scott Walker.
Today’s Huffington Post has a piece from radio/TV host Ed Schultz. Ed is a consistent champion of working people, but he has been even more intense in supporting the working people of Wisconsin. In this post, he talks about the value of teachers, which he learned first from his mother, who was also a teacher. This man speaks honestly and from the heart. If only we had a few politicians (other than Bernie Sanders) who followed Ed’s example.
Samuel Culbert, a professor at the University of California Anderson School of Management, has written a very interesting op-ed about performance reviews in the New York Times. Culbert believes most performance reviews say more about whether a boss likes a subordinate than they do about performance. He uses this claim to argue against the claim that a non-union environment will lead to a more fair evaluation. Instead of a top down approach, Culbert endorses a collaborative type of review, one currently used by the police department in Madison, Wisconsin. Hopefully, the state’s governor will read this editorial and learn something.
The protest in Wisconsin has brought a focus back on a topic I’ve written about several times over the last year: the value of teachers. From Kindergarten through graduate school I went to both public and private schools. Most of my teachers were good. They taught during the day. They graded papers and planned lessons on nights and weekends. It’s not an easy job.
So let’s think for a minute about what opponents of teacher unions want: lower pay, fewer benefits, and no union protection. As I say above, teaching is a tough job. Take the good stuff away and who will want to do it? Yes, good teachers don’t just work for the money. But, at some point, even the most dedicated teachers will say that it’s not worth the sacrifice.
The same people who complain about the quality of American educator are doing everything they can to drive good teachers from the classroom. The same people who say we need to compete with China are driving out our country’s most important resource: Educators.
Shame on Governor Scott Walker and his Tea Party supporters. The have an odd way of showing their love for America. Three cheers for the young students who are marching in Madison. They remember what the old and selfish have forgotten. They know how to say, “Thank you.”