Collective bargaining is as American as apple pie
For all of my Republican friends, I would like to set the record straight about unions and collective bargaining. A long time ago, while a student of political science, I researched and produced a report about the history of the Western Federation of Miners. Faced with deplorable and unsafe working conditions, miners organized and fought for the legal right to do so. They were clubbed and beaten by the mine owner’s thugs, the Pinkertons. Eventually, justice prevailed and owners and the union negotiated a working agreement.
Since then, there have been thousands of agreements in industries and businesses across the nation, producing agreements that define the working conditions and rules governing how people are paid and their benefits. It is an efficient process that sometimes results in the sides breaking down and protesting until an agreement is reached.
I have not always been a fan of public employee unions because some government services should never be threatened to being withheld to constituents due to a labor and employer breakdown, in my opinion. Yet, I also recognize, that government as an employer, must be responsible to workers and a formal agreement is beneficial in making clear the terms and conditions.
In the case of Wisconsin, the state employer claims that it negotiated terms and conditions in the past that the state can no longer support due to radical changes in economic conditions. That is a subject that should be addressed in collective bargaining, a formal process.
In the course of collective bargaining, if state workers want to strike, that is their prerogative and the state employer may take certain actions as a result constrained by the agreement.
The place to deal with the state’s problem is at the bargaining table.
The employer, led by the Governor, does not serve the process well by attacking workers outside the process. That makes the employer hostile in the negotiating process. Having done that already, now, the efforts at the table may take longer and ill-feeling is already fueled.
A more mature approach would have been to use collective bargaining as the means for negotiating better terms that the state is able to support.
The notion that Unions are bad is simply erroneous and hostile.
“Obama joins Wisconsin's budget battle, opposing Republican anti-union bill
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, February 18, 2011; 12:00 AM
MADISON, WIS. - President Obama thrust himself and his political operation this week into Wisconsin's broiling budget battle, mobilizing opposition Thursday to a Republican bill that would curb public-worker benefits while planning similar action in other state capitals.
Obama accused Scott Walker, the state's new Republican governor, of unleashing an "assault" on unions in pushing emergency legislation that would nullify collective-bargaining agreements that affect most public employees, including teachers.
The president's political machine worked in close coordination Thursday with state and national union officials to mobilize thousands of protesters to gather in Madison and to plan similar demonstrations in other state capitals.
Their efforts began to spread, as thousands of labor supporters turned out for a hearing in Columbus, Ohio, to protest a measure from Gov. John Kasich (R) that would cut collective-bargaining rights.
By the end of the day, Democratic Party officials were working to organize additional demonstrations in Ohio and Indiana, where an effort is underway to trim benefits for public workers. Some union activists predicted similar protests in Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Under Walker's plan, most public workers - excluding police, firefighters and state troopers - would have to pay half of their pension costs and at least 12 percent of their health-care costs. They would lose bargaining rights for anything other than pay. Walker, who took office last month, says the emergency measure is needed to save $300 million over the next two years to help close a $3.6 billion budget gap.
"Some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin, where they're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions," Obama told a Milwaukee television reporter, taking the unusual step of inviting a local station into the White House for a sit-down interview. "I think everybody's got to make some adjustments, but I think it's also important to recognize that public employees make enormous contributions to our states and our citizens."
The White House political operation, Organizing for America, got involved Monday, after Democratic National Committee Chairman Timothy M. Kaine, a former Virginia governor, spoke to union leaders in Madison, a party official said.
The group made phone calls, distributed messages via Twitter and Facebook, and sent e-mails to its state and national lists to try to build crowds for rallies Wednesday and Thursday, a party official said.
National Republican leaders, who have praised efforts similar to Walker's, leapt to his defense.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) issued a stern rebuke of the White House, calling on Obama to wave off his political operation and stop criticizing the governor.
"This is not the way you begin an 'adult conversation' in America about solutions to the fiscal challenges that are destroying jobs in our country," Boehner said in a statement, alluding to the president's call for civility in budget talks. "Rather than shouting down those in office who speak honestly about the challenges we face, the president and his advisers should lead."”