Last week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) succeeded in fast tracking a bill through the legislature that basically gutted public worker unions "collective bargaining rights". He cleverly titled the bill the 'budget repair bill"
Per Governor Walkers website he states: "The Legislature helped us save 1,500 middle-class jobs by moving forward this week with the 'budget repair.' The state will now be able to realize $30 million in savings to balance the budget and allow 1,500 state employees to keep their jobs." Interestingly enough, Wisconsin had been the very first state to approve the right of public unions to collectively bargain back in 1959 and now it is the first to take it away.
While I was writing this article the issue took a 360 degree turn. Yesterday, Dana County Wisconsin Judge Maryanne Sumi slapped a temporary restraining order on the whole shebang, stating that open meeting laws may have been violated. Her order temporarily stops the bill from being published which in turn would have made it law. Judge Sumi is not the only one that has taken issue with this bill as The International Commission for Labor Rights (ICLR) has sent notice to the Wisconsin Legislature, explaining that its attempt to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers is illegal.
Last year during the Hualapai Valley Solar Certificate of Environmental Compatibility hearing, I had reason to deal with (or should I say not deal with) some representatives of an Arizona union. The interaction sparked my interest in the purpose, intent and power of unions. As I researched I discovered that it is a pretty volatile and divisive subject. Given that only about 9% of U.S. workers are union it was interesting to note how much power they appear to have.
Many Arizonans (myself included) didn't understand unions. Arizona is a right to work state, so many think that unions are not of any real consequence to them. Some thought that unions were not allowed here and even if they were they couldn't possibly have great power and influence. The basic protection of the right to work clause is that a unionized workplace cannot force a non-union worker to pay "agency fees" to the union if they choose not to be a part of the same.
Opinions run hot and cold, but unions are definitely partisan in nature. Public-sector unions donate large portions of members' dues to elect Democratic lawmakers which in turn is said to boost government workers' wages and benefits. Some say this places an unreasonable burden on the majority of taxpayers. Public workers get the great wage/benefits and the rest of us pay for it. Republicans tend to support the non-union agenda. Six other states whose leaders are Republican have joined in similar actions to that of Governor Walker. Let's face it, "collective bargaining rights" is basically the most important piece of the unions power!
History shows us that the unions have been instrumental over the years in bringing livable wages and benefits to the people, union and non union. Some say that they have literally saved captive illegal immigrants and children from sweatshops and have raised the bar on what is acceptable and reasonable in the treatment of woman and minorities in the workplace.
So here we are with some considering unions the savior of the exploited working man without which workers would still be making $2 an hour and others labeling them as corrupt power hungry organizations who lack concern for humanity in general?
I have to make special mention of a statement that Judge Sumi made after her judgment. She said, "WE OWN OUR GOVERNMENT!" Where have I heard that before? :)
As always, I am curious and appreciative of readers opinions and I hope I will hear from some of you.