There’s been a tidal wave of coverage about Teabagging Governor Scott Walker’s assault on unions in Wisconsin so I won’t waste my time explaining it all here. Suffice to say that Walker’s plans have very little (if anything) to do with the budget shortfall and everything to do with a scorched-earth attack on political opponents. It should also be noted that the budget crisis itself is due almost entirely to Walker’s Teabagging, tax-cutting lunacy in the first place. Talking Points Memo has been indispensable for anyone following the story but if you’d like a nice primer on the entire affair, MoJo has a nice round-up too.
However, for all the national attention Wisconsin has received in the wake of Walker’s antics, his approach is not unique. Emily Loftis reminds us that similar attempts to void collective bargaining rights are included in bills before three other state legislatures, all with GOP majorities: Indianapolis, Florida, and Ohio. This is nothing more than an effort to completely break the back of unionized labor in this country, which is already at a staggeringly low rate of 11.9%. Remember that in 1958, the apex of labor’s power and arguably one of America’s most prosperous periods, that number was almost 40%.
The reasons for the decline are various: growing globalization, automation of labor, the shift to a part-time service economy, etc. Companies are also increasingly ready to break picket lines, a tactic that was given a whole new level of support with Ronald Reagan’s firing of air traffic controllers in 1981. Since then, unions have seen their numbers decline and their influence wane, even as many workers continue to enjoy the benefits of organized labor’s previous effort. This latest assault also has much to do with the tanking economy: as the private sector suffers, it’s easier to point at public workers (who have historically been the target of scorn) and their protected salaries and benefits with envy.
Make no mistake, if this recent push succeeds and worker’s bargaining rights are tossed to the wayside, it will be a fast race to the bottom. After all, if workers can’t organize to demand better treatment and wages, who will stand up for them? The corporations who stand to make a profit by exploiting their labor?
(Thanks to C&L for the video tip)