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A closer look at concerted anti-union efforts across the U.S. reveals they are not about state budgets
Seems like the debate over the union-busting measures around the nation is inextricably couched in budgetary terms. Wisconsin has taken center stage in the debate and is facing a daunting budget deficit of over 100 million dollars. Jobless taxpayers across the country are faced with exhorbitant property taxes and no real prospect of financial security on the horizon. Any relief at all from the scary financial conditions facing taxpayers and states is tough to fight against when the stakes are so high.
But the argument that it is unions that have lead state governments down the road to perdition does not hold up under scrutiny: Some states that are in big trouble right now already lack bargaining rights for state workers:
And how is Kansas HB 2130 about money?: It has absolutely NOTHING to do with the state budget, which is indeed the biggest issue that our legislature shoud be focusing on. SB 2130 is aimed at all unions and it effectively legislates that instead of checking 'donate to PAC' on a one time piece of paperwork union members have to write a check and send a note along with it stating that they want it used for PAC money, every single time they want to participate in political funding. This is ridiculous. Union workers can speak for themselves and they ain't asking for the legislatures help them add another administrative barrier to their political voice.
Indeed, reading these bills reveals a set of different priorities quite out of line with budgetary concerns. Every single one seeks to limit collective bargaining rights in one way or another in a blatent attempt to wrest political power away from unions. The implications of such moves have far more significance than mere temporary budget concerns, as rights won through unions' collective power have long served as benchmarks for employee rights in the U.S.
In addition to these glaring inconsistencies wherein the argument stays focused on money, there are other quite alarming provisions in the bills themselves: Ohio's Senate Bill 5 opens with new provisions for privatization of the prison system, even though in 2010 widespead abuses in privatized prison systems across the nation scandalized states and lead to costly lawsuits. Recently here in Kansas a mentally ill woman was mistreated - denied medication, warm food and a heated cell by the privatized prison contractor, and has filed a lawsuit against her jailers.
Here is an account from the NYT comment page from a citizen in Indiana about how privatization of state services played out in Indiana:
"Privitization that Daniels implemented in Indiana, especially the privitization of Welfare offices with a huge contract with IBM, left my county without a welfare office, so a person applying for help was forced to apply on-line. Nice....so many poor people have computers handy! It was a disaster and Daniels had to back down. He broke the contract with IBM and the state is now involved in a multi-million dollar law suit. He privitized the large prison near my home where I have taught college classes. It's a pretty miserable place to work. There were rumors that the prisons would soon be moving to a two meal a day plan (same amount of calories--but a late lunch and early dinner). Daniels looks good on paper but he has not helped our economy. Without the Recovery Act, Indiana would be in big trouble."
Wisconsin too, as we all now know, also has sweeping provisions for the privatization of public utilities that were built with taxpayer money; the general basis for privatization parroted over and over as a means to making government smaller and leaner. But how are smaller less intrusive government principles at work in legislation that interferes with the right for individuals' to enter into contracts? And how is liberty achieved when the means by which the average person is able to flex his or her civic muscle is being threatened by government agencies?
Unions aren't perfect, and people in states like California, have a justifiable bone to pick with public employee unions who have crippled the state budget. Many union members in the private sector also have valid grievances with the unions which have done a poor job of representing their interests as individuals. But as the only real counter weight to the enormous politcal clout waged by monied interests on both parties of our government, which are poised to continue gobbling up government contracts for the further privatization of everything the taxpayers have already paid to implement, we little people can not afford to abide measures that seek to cripple the voice of the workers in the political process of the nation that our fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers built with their very own hands.