On March 10, 2011, Wisconsin lawmakers headed by Republican Governor, Scott Walker, and, by association, the Republican Party, made a direct assault upon the working class by voting to pass a union busting bill that strips workers of their collective bargaining rights. While they attempt to justify their actions with the balancing the state budget, the passing of this bill strikes a blow against the working class of Wisconsin, preventing them from effectively fighting for their rights. The passing of the bill also sets a dangerous precedent that lawmakers in other states are using to forward a platform of union busting legislation. An article on the bill’s passing in the Huffington Post describes the potential spread of this disturbing oppressive trend.
“Walker’s plan has touched off a national debate over labor rights for public employees and its implementation would be a key victory for Republicans, many of whom have targeted unions amid efforts to slash government spending. Similar bargaining restrictions are making their way through Ohio’s Legislature and several other states are debating measures to curb union rights in smaller doses.”
It seems as though this may be the first of many clashes between the working class and the pro-corporate, if not outrightly corporate-controlled, US government. This must be stopped NOW. The battle is not lost until the people give up fighting. Workers must unite, regardless of what lies lawmakers sign off on.
Collective bargaining rights are one of the few things standing between the working class and complete oppressive rule by corporate or government entities. While our political system aspires to a democracy, our economic structure operates as a dictatorship. The average individual worker has no say about the condition in which they work and the compensation they receive. At best, their grievances and requests are tossed in a box and ignored with numerous others. At worst, workers can be punished for voicing their opinions. Only together can workers pose a significant threat to the profits so incessantly sought by the rich elite and demand humane working conditions and compensation equitable to their labor. Individuals can be fired and replaced, it is much more difficult, however, to replace the entirety of a workforce. Not only are there more people to replace, but a significant ideological message would be sent by a corporation or government entity tossing all of its employees aside in the name of profit. Even more threatening than the specific things, like pension, lost in the passing of the Wisconsin bill, is the foundational platform created, from which future anti-union and anti-working class campaigns can be waged. The key to preventing this oppression from spreading from Wisconsin is in the name itself, unity. Workers, all workers, regardless of industry or other forms of social division, i.e. race, gender, etc., must band together to protect themselves against oppression from the rich few.
One of the most effective tactics used to bust unions is the dissemination of anti-union propaganda, creating a false sense of hostility and conflict between union and non-union workers and the unemployed. Unions gain no benefit from any member of the working class being oppressed, whether they are employed at the time or not. Similarly no individual member of the working class can ultimately benefit from being anti-union, as they are attacking one the few entities in this society that seeks to allow them to be heard. The key to this issue is for all working class people to realize their mutual stake in the battle for collective bargaining rights. While there is no denying that significant conflicts arise between union workers and the rest of the working class, this conflict is a false product of the oppressive capitalist system’s misinformation and distortion of fact. The true enemy is not our brothers and sisters in the picket lines fighting for a better life, but the bosses who would deny those same rights to us.
By Paul Darnell