“That’s a war people will pay attention to.”
— Bob Woodward, today on Morning Joe
Forget Iraq and Afghanistan, by God we’re goin’ after the unions! Johnny, get your gun!
Some of the talk this morning on Morning Joe was about the seemingly sudden outbreak of war on labor unions.
Republicans, of course, have always been in Cold War status when it comes to unions, with a fiery skirmish flaring up here and there over the last thirty years. Remember Ronald Reagan and PATCO?
What’s new these days is that the GOP—drunk on Tea Party power—is ready to start dropping nukes on the unions.
From the New York Times on Monday:
Faced with growing budget deficits and restive taxpayers, elected officials from Maine to Alabama, Ohio to Arizona, are pushing new legislation to limit the power of labor unions, particularly those representing government workers, in collective bargaining and politics.
Wanting to hurry and start the bombing before the economy heats up enough to rob them of their largest justification, Republican reactionaries across America—including here in Missouri—are using the bad economic times and the resulting state budget shortfalls to obliterate unions once and for all time.
It’s true there are some Vichy-like Democrats in the mix, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and even the President himself, with their salary freezes for public employees. But that’s small potatoes compared with what the real enemies of labor unions have in mind:
…in some cases — mostly in states with Republican governors and Republican statehouse majorities — officials are seeking more far-reaching, structural changes that would weaken the bargaining power and political influence of unions, including private sector ones.
For example, Republican lawmakers in Indiana, Maine, Missouri and seven other states plan to introduce legislation that would bar private sector unions from forcing workers they represent to pay dues or fees, reducing the flow of funds into union treasuries. In Ohio, the new Republican governor, following the precedent of many other states, wants to ban strikes by public school teachers.
Some new governors, most notably Scott Walker of Wisconsin, are even threatening to take away government workers’ right to form unions and bargain contracts.
“We can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots,” Mr. Walker, a Republican, said in a speech. “The bottom line is that we are going to look at every legal means we have to try to put that balance more on the side of taxpayers.”
Before I comment on that idiocy, I wish there was a way for those union members across the country, who in orgasmic delight ran—yes, ran—into their respective polling stations on November 2 and pulled the lever for union-hating Republicans, to immediately suffer the consequences of their actions. These ungrateful union members who supported Tea Party candidates and other Republicans deserve to lose every single benefit they enjoy today thanks to a union.
It’s just too bad there isn’t a cosmic reality in which a union voter immediately suffers the consequences of voting for a candidate who seeks to destroy the very entity that allows him or her to enjoy what passes for a middle class income in America.
I know some of these hypocritical union members—I used to be one and later, when I came to my senses, represented them—and I know how excited they were to see the Tea Party come to power under the umbrella of the GOP. If these pitiful people had one tittle of integrity, after casting their deadly votes last November, they would run—yes, run—to their employers and give back everything unions have won for them, including in many cases their jobs.
That said, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s threat to “take away government workers’ right to form unions and bargain contracts” is, like the GOP’s Kill Obamacare Act, a political pipe dream. And his labeling public employees as “the haves” and taxpayers as “the have-nots” should give comfort to the real “haves” in this country, a handful of which make most of the real money and hold most of the wealth in America.
How a man dumb enough to utter such tripe became governor of a state is a testimony to the imputed wisdom of P. T. Barnum. Apparently a lot of suckers cast votes in Wisconsin a few months ago.
But what really galls me is the following, as reported by the Times:
Of all the new governors, John Kasich, Republican of Ohio, appears to be planning the most comprehensive assault against unions. He is proposing to take away the right of 14,000 state-financed child care and home care workers to unionize. He also wants to ban strikes by teachers, much the way some states bar strikes by the police and firefighters.
“If they want to strike, they should be fired,” Mr. Kasich said in a speech. “They’ve got good jobs, they’ve got high pay, they get good benefits, a great retirement. What are they striking for?”
“Good jobs,” “high pay,” “good benefits,” “great retirement.” How the bleep does anyone think they got these things, to the extent what Kasich said is true? And who said they were planning on striking?
Calling this stuff bullshit would insult bulls everywhere.
But what’s really galling about Kasich’s proposals—and he has other middle-class-killing ideas, including eliminating the state requirement that even non-union construction contractors have to pay union-scale wages—is that John Kasich is the son of a letter carrier.
That’s right. The man who has declared war not just on unions but by extension on middle class wage earners is the son of a mailman, who was represented by—guess what?—a labor union. The National Association of Letter Carriers represents all of the nation’s more than 200,000 letter carriers—even if they don’t pay dues to the union.
Here’s the way the Ohio Republican Party described the GOP’s newly-elected anti-union governor:
The son of a mailman, John grew up in a blue collar neighborhood in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. Like many Americans his values were shaped by a childhood rooted in faith, family, community and common sense.
Kasich’s blue collar background has given way to a scarlet conservatism; his childhood rooted in the Catholic faith has given way to evangelicalism; his first family has given way to divorce; and his community values and common sense have given way to the economic philosophy of the Republican Party, which is not only anti-worker, but is more than willing to hold the unfortunate among us hostage in return for billions upon billions of dollars worth of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, many of whom didn’t want them.
Even now they plot to jeopardize the full faith and credit of the United States and risk economic disaster in order to obtain spending cuts in programs designed to make life better for those folks not fortunate enough to belong to a labor union.
Beyond that, it’s simply unconscionable to solve the nation’s budget problems by attacking the one instrument in our society that has lifted more people out of poverty than any other. It’s unconscionable, but it’s not surprising. The Republican Party, after all, has never been a friend of organized labor. It has never been a friend of those who through collective bargaining seek a bigger piece of the American economic pie because that means less of the pie for the main constituents of the GOP: the wealthy.
Finally, nothing says more about the current state of Orwellian Republican politics these days than the following:
Republicans have decided to excise the word “labor” from the name of the House committee handling education and, yes, labor issues.
It’s time to say so long to the Education and Labor Committee and hello to the Education and the Workforce Committee, the Wall Street Journal‘s Washington Wire reports.
As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, Newt Gingrich did the same thing in 1994. It’s the Republicans’ way of giving the finger to organized labor. But it is more than that. The change from “labor” to “workforce” is, indeed, important. And revealing. It demonstrates exactly how Republicans view those who work for a living. As Keith Olbermann put it:
No longer is it your labor. Now it’s big business’s workforce.
Get it? Republicans see the average Joe as mere cogs in a money-making machine. A pool from which to pick and choose and then abuse, when the time comes.
And there is no doubt that labor unions, representing the interests of the folks who actually do the work but often don’t reap the benefits, are a problem for businesses that seek ungodly profits at the expense of those who make all profits possible.
And as for public employee unions, they too get in the way of Republicans, who with their small- and often anti-government fanaticism, are trying to starve the government of much-needed revenues so as to reduce not only its size but it’s effectiveness in restraining the we-want-it-all mentality of corporate and other business interests.
It’s just a shame that these days some Democrats are, no matter how gingerly, buying into this philosophy, and are thus marching with Republicans as they make war on the most faithful of Democratic constituencies.