Saturday, July 25, 2015

Unions, politics and 'hit job' journalism

Regular readers of this blog will know that I support neither the Democratic nor Republican parties.  I regard both of them as inimical to US interests.  They seem far more focused on achieving their partisan political objectives than serving the country - and neither seems to give a damn about the wishes, desires and interests of the American people.

With that in mind, I'm cynically amused by the fuss over who should represent each party in next year's Presidential elections.  With very few exceptions, all of the candidates are playing to their party's base, trying to represent the party rather than the country as a whole.  Worse, most of them are simply retreading tired old political clichés rather than coming up with original ideas.  There are very few of them with a worthwhile track record of achievement, and most appear to have avoided original thought for years.

There are, however, exceptions.  When I find the supporters of one party arguing vociferously that a potential candidate for the other party is dangerous, or deluded, or whatever, that tends to get me interested.  For example, the Washington Post calls Scott Walker 'dangerous', and says of him:

“First off,” Scott Walker proclaimed, “we took on the unions, and we won. We won!”

Taking on the unions is usually first off for Walker, the Wisconsin governor and Republican presidential candidate. It is the very rationale for his candidacy.

. . .

This is the essence of Walker’s appeal — and why he is so dangerous. He is not as outrageous as Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), but his technique of scapegoating unions for the nation’s ills is no less demagogic. Sixty-five years ago, another man from Wisconsin made himself a national reputation by frightening the country about the menace of communists, though the actual danger they represented was negligible. Scott Walker is not Joe McCarthy, but his technique is similar: He suggests that the nation’s ills can be cured by fighting labor unions (foremost among the “big government special interests” hurting the United States), even though unions represent just 11 percent of the U.S. workforce and have been at a low ebb.

There's more at the link.

That article encapsulates precisely why the left/progressive wing fears Scott Walker - and why the rest of us like him.  He really did trounce Big Labor, and has proved that it can be beaten.  I'd love to know how hard the unions pushed for that article to be written, and how much behind-the-scenes influence they exerted on its composition.  (If you think they had nothing to do with it, I have this bridge in Brooklyn, NYC I'd like to sell you.  Cash only, please, and in small bills.)

Unions have dominated Democratic Party (and left-wing and progressive) politics for decades.  One look at their political donations will tell you all you need to know about their alignment - and according to the Department of Labor, they spend much more than that on politically related activities.

Unions served a valid purpose in the USA for many years, and in some cases they still do.  (I was a member of a union at one time, and its support proved invaluable in resolving a situation in which I was unfairly accused.)  However, unions have become millstones around the neck of many industries.  A few examples:

New Jersey has drawn national attention as a case study, but the same scenario is playing out in state capitals from coast to coast. New York, Michigan, California, Washington, and many other states also find themselves heavily indebted, with public-sector unions at the root of their problems. In exchange, taxpayers in these states are rewarded with larger and more expensive, yet less effective, government, and with elected officials who are afraid to cross the politically powerful unions. As the Wall Street Journal put it recently, public-sector unions "may be the single biggest problem...for the U.S. economy and small-d democratic governance." They may also be the biggest challenge facing state and local officials — a challenge that, unless economic conditions dramatically improve, will dominate the politics of the decade to come.

That's precisely why I like Scott Walker as a potential Presidential candidate.  It has nothing to do with his party affiliation.  Frankly, I don't care whether he's Republican or Democrat.  It has to do with him realizing the crippling effect of unions on the bureaucracy administering his State, and being willing to take a stand and do something about it.  No wonder the unions are afraid of him, particularly given the widespread negative public perception of them.  As one openly left-wing union proponent has conceded:

... as much as it hurts to admit this, labor unions just aren’t very popular. In Gallup’s annual poll on confidence in institutions, unions score close to the bottom of the list, barely above big business and HMOs but behind banks. More Americans—42%—would like to see unions have less influence, and just 25% would like to see them have more. Despite a massive financial crisis and a dismal job market, approval of unions is close to an all-time low in the 75 years Gallup has been asking the question. A major reason for this is that twice as many people (68%) think that unions help mostly their members as think they help the broader population (34%). Amazingly, in Wisconsin, while only about 30% of union members voted for Walker, nearly half of those living in union households but not themselves union members voted for him (Union voters ≠ union households). In other words, apparently union members aren’t even able to convince their spouses that the things are worth all that much.

A major reason for the perception that unions mostly help insiders is that it’s true. Though unions sometimes help out in living wage campaigns, they’re too interested in their own wages and benefits and not the needs of the broader working class. Public sector workers rarely make common cause with the consumers of public services, be they schools, health care, or transit.

More at the link.

If Scott Walker can tap into that public perception, he'll have wide voter appeal.  That's why the hit piece in the Washington Post was written, and why we'll see more of them in the months to come.  It's also noteworthy that almost no-one else in the running for the presidency in 2016 has dared to 'make waves' where the unions are concerned.  I find that telling.  As Voltaire is said to have opined a few centuries ago, "To find out who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize."  Scott Walker has helped to make that clear - for which we should all be duly grateful.

Unions aren't the only issue in the forthcoming Presidential election - far from it.  However, their impact on our country and our economy is such that I tend to like anyone who will stand up to them, point out the damage they've done, and take steps to reverse it.  As far as Scott Walker is concerned, so far, so good.



J Van Stry said...

Considering that EVERY SINGLE ONE of the people that Sen. McCarthy suspected of being a Soviet spy, WAS IN FACT a Soviet spy (proven years later by the Vernoia project, and confirmed when the Soviet Union collapsed and we got access to their records). I wouldn't be comparing Walker to McCarthy.

Jeff Weimer said...

Public sector workers rarely make common cause with the consumers of public services, be they schools, health care, or transit.

Not only do the not make common cause, they are actively opposed to the consumers of public services, the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

I draw a strict line between private and public sector unions. Private sector unions are self limiting, as in the Hostess case, when they over reach they get economically punished, so I have no issue with them. Public sector unions should be abolished as most government workers already have sufficient civil service job protection and the unions end up negotiating contracts with people who they support politically with bodies and money. Way too much pro quid pro deal making here.

richard mcenroe said...

More to the point, Walker took on the State Unions, the unelected de facto rulers of this nation who represent the vast majority of the government people actually interact with.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the differences between private/public sector unions. We need to abolish public sector unions completely and establish legislation to prevent their formation at both the state and federal level ever again.

As for private sector unions, that is a matter that should be left up to each state to address for itself.


Dad29 said...

Walker was NOT enthusiastic over the "right-to-work" law until the Legislature forced his hand--and he signed it.

That's fine by me. As Anony1 said, private-sector unions will either cut their own throats or adapt and survive with their employers. But the public-sector unions here (and elsewhere) are bloodsuckers of the worst sort.

And the Federal unions know what could happen with Walker--which is precisely why the WaPo--which lives in a (Federal) union-town, said what they said.

Will said...

You people aren't very observant. Private-sector labor unions destroy businesses AND industries. Why do you think there is so little manufacturing left in the US? Especially heavy industry. I would outlaw ALL unions. Unfortunately, it would be a little late at this point.

Anonymous said...

I'll also give Kashich a little credit for his attempt at the unions (known as SB 5 in Ohio). However, he and/or the bill writers made a strategic mistake. Unlike Wisconsin, the Ohio bill lumped the police and fire unions in with the rest of the public unions. Which meant it was repealed by referendum at least partially sold in the "they're attacking cops and firefighters!" Manner.
It may still have been defeated without that problem, but that definitely doomed it. But Kashich at least tried.

Peter O

Anonymous said...

Reading this from the UK I am deeply troubled by the comments and the article. Lets look at the examples used. Basicaly there is no manufactoring done in the UK or the USA because Korean and other "developing world" countries are always cheaper when they can maim, kill, pay slave labour wages to their staff, notice how those metal bashing jobs moved from the US to Japan, then Korea, and now Africa, just as each countries workers demanded to be paid enough money to feed them and their families and not die in the process.
One well known Korean manufactorer set up a site in the UK, in a non unionised workforce which in the first 6mths of operation had called in the Police or Helath and Safety Dept 10 times. Once when a man had his arm caught in a machine inches from a cutting blade and was told he could stand there for another 6hrs until the line shut down by the Korean Manager, even if one sneeze or cramp would have cut of fingers.
That type of practice was fought against by Unions for decades and now it is comming back, work related deaths are on the increase in the UK and the USA.
Secondly take public workers. Basically what you are saying as in the UK you want something for nothing. Since 2010 wages in the UK Public Sector have been frozen, the next 5yrs a 1% increase per anum. So you spend £40,000 to be a qualified teacher, careing for the must vunerable preciouse things in the world Children. Then your told although inflaion is going to erode your wages by 25% to 33% in that 10yr period you are not going to get a pay rise, because unions who ask for decent pay to maintain and attract the best in their fields to teach are Satan himself. Well those people walk away, get other jobs, when your hospitals are devoid of Staff, your Schools Empty, you Police force run by thugs because anybody with a brain gets another well paying job you are left wondering "why don't we get the services we need".
As long as the 1%'s can have their gated communities and pay for Private Health care then thats OK, the rest of us can just go and die.