Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Friday, August 13, 2010

Redirecting resentment

Union membership in this country has steadily declined over the last decades, falling most sharply in the private sector. This has had a negative effect on all working Americans, reducing wages, benefits and job security. It has also hurt the bargaining power of surviving unions, leading some to allow employers almost free reign, in exchange for the dubious distinction of recognition as parties to contracts that offer less and less to workers. With less people in unions, and unions losing clout, many Americans today have no real direct experience of enjoying the benefits of union membership. This makes it possible for Republicans to call unions "special interests," on a par with those who own mineral rights on public lands, or importers of Russian mink. The teachers, police, and firefighters who were spared the ax, with the bill house Democrats just passed, are mostly union members. They do not enjoy anything like the wealth or power that an investment banker or corporate lobbyist does. Yet compared to many other working Americans, these folks have it pretty good. When you're working for a low wage with no benefits, the deal given to a cop or a school teacher seems sweet indeed. Moreover, the wages and benefits paid to these public sector union members come out of taxes. All of this might help to explain how a group of Republicans, who has vigorously fought for the interests of the very wealthiest among us, has managed to redirect some of the natural anger and resentment of the less affluent against "union special interests." This is discouraging, yet perhaps it is also what we might call a "teachable moment." Union members can point proudly to their relative strength. The recession has hurt us, the cops and teachers can say, but at least we have some protection. Wouldn't our country be better off if more workers were able to get a better deal than they're giving at WalMart? Instead of whining about fat union contracts, try to form a union and get yourself a fatter contract too!

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