Saturday, February 19, 2011

Wisconsin Questions

Eek. About the time I get to thinking I can write about Wisconsin's demonstrations of the union versus a bought and paid for tea party governor, more information comes out and I am stymied.

States are in trouble with underfunded pension systems which they must now pay from revenues not the investments they had counted upon. That leaves a problem for paying for the current workers.

BUT Wisconsin was not really that much in trouble given their deficit is small and it was more or less enhanced by offering tax breaks to corporations to come there, which sounds good to get jobs.

BUT this business of states or cities offering lower tax rates to draw in corporate jobs doesn't always work out so well. Often the corporations invest little and are ready to move on to somebody else who offers more. Jobs are transient at best. This also puts states at each other's throats to the benefit of the corporations.

BUT how does a state draw jobs if it has winter 9 months of the year. Okay exaggeration but in a time of hard winters, the sunbelt has the bigger advantage and without jobs there won't be taxes.

BUT with unions being pushed out of the picture, the wages for any jobs are going down. I saw some statistics on how many workers were in unions before Reagan began his union busting presidency and it was like 35% and now it's like 7% (don't hold me to these being exact numbers but they are approximate). Unions have been why working conditions have improved, overtime is paid extra, hours are limited as to how many can be worked, children are protected from sweatshops, safety conditions regulated, and yes wages went up and stopped when unions lost clout.

BUT in an era like ours where we are competing with the world for market share, won't wages have to go down?

BUT to a level of $10 a day?

BUT civil servants have no right to negotiate as a group for wages as they are servants of the government in return for job security. Supposedly that meant lower wages compared to the private sector. Today that's not the case mostly thanks to unions.

BUT their higher wages have raised the competitive level for all jobs?

BUT that was good? It sounds good that wages went up until you realize that means the cost of everything did too. So we earn a lot more than we did in say 1970 but those dollars are worth a lot less. We can't compete in a world market but with the kinds of wages a third world can offer their workers, how would we anyway?

BUT without unions all the power is in the hands of the corporations and we all know it. They said when they gave corporations personhood that it was balanced by union power. Now they are trying to decapitate unions. Who do we expect that to benefit?

And on my reasoning goes or doesn't go. I am schizophrenic on this whole thing except I believe in the power of unions but also have seen that power abused. What power hasn't been? Who believes that corporations will pay a good wage if they don't have to?

What is happening in Wisconsin and across the country with the effort to end collective bargaining for state employees is just one more nail in the union coffin and the ones who don't see that, don't like unions and don't want to see it. Without unions, we are individuals asking for fair wages.

There are corporations and businesses that want to pay a fair wage to their employees but most are not caring about that. They will pay anybody the cheapest wage they can and that means often bringing in employees from overseas as temporaries that they send back for a new crop-- thereby denying jobs to someone here. What has prevented that from happening more places? You know it is the power of the worker which is being daily diminished.

We, who are not in Wisconsin and these other states, we need to care about this also because this is another step on agenda and we are on it too. If we don't care now, later nobody will be there to care.

We should care now because the middle class is the target. You know it's the truth and they will go after it eventually. There isn't enough money for the wealthiest and they aren't going to blame what would make sense to blame for their problems.

A war that made no sense and that we borrowed to pay for? How can they blame that? They make money off those industries. How many wealthy bankers went to jail for their Ponzi schemes. The benefits were not realistically promised. People all over the country lost the pensions they believed they had due to the stock market. The state employees don't want that to be their lot and yet is it fair to keep them fully funded while the worker of today is either not hired when needed or is let go?

Wisconsin's, Governor Walker, evidently ran on doing exactly what he's doing. He didn't win by much; which means as usual half the voters approve of his tough line and half do not. They say it has divided the state which is pretty much how our nation is, I think.

If Governor Walker had not first cut corporate taxes, this might not seem so blatant but it's like the Republicans in Congress who insisted on a tax cut for those making over $220,000 a year, called it for small business, and then immediately got in office and began talking of cutting home heating subsidies, cutting programs like Planned Parenthood or public broadcasting. The juxtaposition of help for the rich and cuts for the poor and the middle, they are so blatant that nobody can miss them.

Can't make the rich pay for this readjustment in income, but we can make the old and the poor. To avoid having everybody mad at him, he opted to allow police and firemen to do collective bargaining. The rest-- pfftttt.

Right wingers are a bunch who have been demonizing teachers all along; so none of this is surprising. Limbaugh called the demonstrators (made up of teachers, librarians and other government employees as well as those who believe government serves a purpose) bottom feeders which shows how much he values education. Well frankly if more people valued it, he'd have less listeners.

Beck had an answer also regarding from where the demonstrations came that suited his loyal nutcases-- the socialist left caused it in Egypt, around the world and now here. I wonder if people can remain sane if they regularly listen to that guy? If they can, they are blaming both Bushes right now also, who are part of a plot wanting a huge Middle eastern empire which might now apparently include Wisconsin. Beck is a wacko but what does that say about those who follow his every word? They are out buying AK47s, for the coming revolution, is what it says.

First of all on from where the idea of demonstrations arise, the kind where Beck says in horrified tones, people bring their children, did he ever look at the tea party ones or pro life rallies for whether children are present? If we don't buy into that ordianry workers feel their livelihood and power eroding, how about the idea of demonstrations came from the tea party.

The tea party is mad at a lot of things but most of all it's Obama and it's never been so much about what he does as who he is. It reminds me of a scene from How to Train Your Dragon where the hero, who doesn't fit the Viking mold, had one of the Vikings tell him what was wrong with him and he responded by saying-- you just gestured to all of me. That's Obama for the tea party (51% of Republicans who vote in their primaries don't believe Obama is a native born citizen but you can bet if it wasn't that, it'd be the rest of him).

Beck sees this all as a united conspiracy but not from the right to cripple the middle class, no it's of socialists, communists and people like me. People who grew up in union households and saw what they could accomplish to help a hard working regular family afford a decent life, buy a home, even have a mom staying home.

While the erosion of the middle class doesn't worry Beck, I see a government that is cutting taxes for the richest right before they sock it to everyone else-- most especially the poor. This all might be more tolerable if the events weren't so close together as to not be possible to miss the connection. Rich= good guys. Everybody else= patsies.

The unions have been the bad guys for the Republican party for a long time. They talk of fat cat salaries... oh not the CEOs, I mean the mechanics. They worry about the idea that those employed by corporations could negotiate for better wages... oh not the CEOs but the mechanics. Yep, there have been those horrendously high salaries... not the CEOs but those rich mechanics again; and pointed to how much it endangered our country to have power so concentrated in a few hands-- union hands, of course, not that of the corporate heads.

Governor Walker's planned limitation on unions would not allow collective bargaining which would keep any raise to whatever the government told people it was through cost of living. That's working so well for Social Security recipients who know everything they need to buy is going up but supposedly the COLA did not; so they get no increase. Government is good at that and without union power to put a check on corporate power, it's not hard to see where this is all going-- a nation of peons with a few wealth overmasters.

The years before people could join together and organize, bargain as a group for wages, they were at the mercy of the business world period. They had to take whatever pittance was offered, work overtime, endure unsafe working conditions. Governor Walker, and his tea party ilk, want to take it back to those days.

Collective bargaining is part of capitalism if capitalism doesn't mean total control by business and not the workers. For workers to come together, work out what they believe is a fair salary and stand together to get it, is the only hope of the middle class. Frankly where corporations are allowed to bring in workers from other countries, they are undercutting that anyway.

I do think unions have to be responsible and understand their work may not be worth, to the economy, what they want it to be. When we look at this all from an economic viewpoint, we are weighing two different things for that-- one lifestyle I want to live versus income available in the collective pot to provide that.

If we had a true free system of capitalism, workers would have the right to organize, make demands and the businesses would have the right to hire someone else, a lot of someone else's if they could find workers for less money. That's free market. We don't remotely have that in any aspect.

We are in a time of flux and like it or not, we have to think of new answers for a new age. We don't have true capitalism despite the talk from the right of it being like a god to them for how it should be worshiped. We could have it but it would be a painful transition and most of us would probably suffer a lowering of our expected lifestyles especially today with the world being the marketplace.


Kay Dennison said...

Our law enforcement, firefighters and teachers rallied at the State House yesterday, too, but nobody cares about Ohio.

That said, my dad was president of his local, my mom was a steelworker and I was a member of the Communications Workers. I am aware of the pros and cons of unions from personal experience and understand quite well. Unions do a lot more than just ask for higher wages. They also work toward better treatment of employees in the workplace.

I've worked for companies with unions and companies without unions and know which I like better. And yes, I've walked a picket line.

Paul said...

I have been in 3 unions in my lifetime. Some were good ones and some were not. I was in the IAFF and the Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union. I helped put a local in a textile mill (cotton mill) in my native South Carolina. And before I saw the light I was a member of the I.W.W. - the Wobblies. Power to the people. So, I too know unions and lefties and Righties. I admit that I still read Mother Jones once in awhile...:-)

Phil said...

Having grown up in a union household, and managed staff in my profession here is what I know:

Represented employees get better wages and benefits. As George Meany once said, "As a plumber I saw many thing flow downward, but none of it was money". We need our negotiators.
No matter at what level you work at, we have all benefitted from the presence of unions
Unions cannot react in tough financial times, causing job losses
Unions routinely accept job losses over wage and benefit cuts

CEO's are much more greedy than unions.
Management does not like to cut jobs because they have to work harder
Many more management jobs should be cut before line level jobs, a trend evident in the 90's but not now.
Jobs can be cut, and companies will be more profitable.

What does this mean for Wisconsin- job cuts
Means more unemployment
Another hiccup in the economic growth

It is a tough time, but as you point out, we are almost equally divided, and no one is negotiating and compromising to make it work.

Where are the real leaders that can bring us together?