Unions Under Attack

I don’t understand the problem people have with unions.  Unions have been around for years and have helped reform labor laws that most of us benefit from in some way. However, I can understand why big business would want to destroy unions.  It’s really very simple, profit.  And it’s the same story over and over – in the words of Noam Chomsky,  “profit over people”.  And I’m not just talking a little profit, I’m talking obscene profits.  Look no further than Walmart, a wildly successful garganguan box retailer.  It has a reputation for shoddy employment practices accentuated by low wages, unaffordable health insurance and gender discrimination lawsuits.  And there’s the outsourcing.  Certainly not unique to Walmart, but happening nonetheless.  And yes, Walmart is expanding,  and creating jobs, but also driving out competition from small business.  And what good is a full-time job if the pay is low and the benefits unaffordable?  If Walmart allowed unions, its workers would have better working conditions, there’d be fewer disputes in the long run and perhaps its workers would be healthier, more productive and loyal.  Sounds like good business to me.

I realize that the Wisconsin dispute is about public sector unions, and not the private sector, so let me say this – contrary to Republican rhetoric, unions are not responsible for the fiscal crisis states now face.  The economy is to blame.  The near collapse of the financial markets due to poor regulatory oversight is not the fault of labor.   States should endeavor to find new revenues.  Gaming – riverboat gambling anyone?, closing corporate tax loopholes, and raising income taxes.  It doesn’t always have to be cut, cut, cut.  And who to cut?  Your child’s teacher?  Come on.  If you think teaching is easy or unimportant, try it for a year.  Why do you think the turnover rate among new teachers is so high?  And despite what you may be thinking, the starting salary for a teacher is abysmal in most states, though higher in New England where the cost of living is significantly higher.  But if you are a teacher, and you commit to professional development and obtain a master’s degree, advanced certifications, you are financially rewarded thanks to union contracts.  But of course this is no different than the private sector where starting salaries are quite a bit higher, where education and credentials also matter.

On the national scene, Republicans are busy with a coordinated strategy of dividing the middle class along economic and social lines.  They blame unions for the economy hoping to gain support from socially conservative blue dog type democrats, independents, tea partiers and libertarians.  But let’s not forget the Republicans pledge to be a job creating machine.  I guess that machine is broken down and in the union shop for major repairs.

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