Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Blaming and Destroying Unions (from Steve Hochstadt)

“…[Illinois Governor] Rauner claims that union-negotiated salaries have caused our state’s financial crisis. He accused unions that represent public employees, such as firefighters, police and teachers, of manipulating elections by contributing to campaigns of elected officials. In his State of the State speech in February, Rauner said the state should ban political contributions by public employee unions.

“His most significant action thus far has been to stop the payment of union dues by workers who are not members, but who benefit from union contracts, so-called ‘fair share’ payments. Rauner’s anti-union policies may not get very far. His proposal that communities be allowed to create local ‘right-to-work zones’ conflicts with federal labor laws, which only allow states to pass such laws. Unions have sued Rauner to prevent his ‘fair share’ order, and the Republican comptroller has refused to put these fees into an escrow account pending a final decision…

“To those who believe that unions have too much power to influence government, here is a surprising statistic. For every dollar that labor unions and other public-interest groups spend on lobbying, large corporations and their associations spend $34. Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying, 95 represent business. The largest companies now have upwards of 100 lobbyists representing them. Lawmakers in Washington and in state capitals are besieged daily by lobbyists representing the interests of corporate America, not by union members.

“The gains won by unions in wages and benefits over many decades raised the standard of living of all Americans. These gains also can raise costs. When teachers’ salaries go up, so do the costs of public schools. But paying teachers good salaries benefits our whole society by making this most important profession more attractive to the best students and by strengthening the middle class. Paying factory workers good salaries can raise the cost of automobiles and other goods, but the 20th-century gains in factory wages contributed to the strong American economy. As unions declined, workers’ wages stagnated, and the share of total income in the US that goes to the middle class has fallen from 53% to 46%. The loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs overseas is one of the causes of our economic problems.

“Unions are democracy in action, created by the working poor to speak with their voice. Capitalists and governments fought them everywhere they grew. If threats of jail and loss of job were not enough, armed violence with the overwhelming power of the state was employed. The celebration of labor that happens across the world every year on May 1 came about due to the Haymarket incident in Chicago in 1886, itself the result of police shooting of striking workers. Every dictatorship of the left or right seeks to destroy the power of unions. Unions are much more democratic organizations than corporations, representing average Americans rather than wealthy stockholders and CEOs…”

--Steve Hochstadt

For the complete article, click here.

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