Friday, April 1, 2011

Bash Lazy Politicians, Not Unions

Stanley Kutler on the move against public employee unions, in his state of Wisconsin and elsewhere:
Whether in polite country club conversation or in the angry voices of barroom exchanges, we have an atavistic, ugly strain of hostility toward public workers, and even the idea of unions, that arouses some of our most divisive political dialogue. U.S. House Republicans, by way of example, have proposed legislation that would deny food stamps to the children or relatives of any worker who strikes. Real budget hawks, those people.

Yet where and when have any candidates for public office declared and advocated such hostility and promised to destroy unions? Neither Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker nor his dutiful followers in the Legislature ever, ever openly called for the actions they are now taking. Theirs was a stealth campaign, one of calculated deceit.

Kutler chalks it up to people's anger at teachers and teacher unions. He's right that there's plenty of that. But it's also Republicans wanting to hobble unions' ability to influence elections with campaign contributions. Will legislators who don't get union support be tougher during contract negotiations? Probably. But it's not all the unions' fault that lazy politicians of both parties negotiating at the local and state levels over the last 30 years or more made imprudent bargains that failed to take into account the possibility of an extended revenue drought such as the one we're experiencing now.

All in all, it's pretty ironic that the same sorts of folks who welcomed the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which amply protected corporate free speech, are now using raw state power to gag workers. On this issue, give me stand-up, East coast Republicans like Gov. Chris Christie and Donald Trump who refuse to bash unions but know how to protect themselves and their stakeholders at the bargaining table.

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