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Wisconsin outlaws collective bargaining

February 25, 2011

Wisconsin protests to save union rights

I do not believe that I would be hyperbolic in saying that the unionized worker in North America is in a state of siege. Last night, the Republican-led state legislature in Wisconsin passed a bill outlawing the right to collective bargaining for its public service workers.

 There will be no more discussions on worker health benefits, working conditions, pension contributions, or a host of other issues.

The Wisconsin public service union acknowledgement the state was in financial difficulties; they were willing to make concessions, increase their own contributions to pension funds and health care benefits, take no salary increases, and reduce the number of union members. But the republicans saw this as an opportunity to dismantle the very nature of the union itself.

At least a dozen other states are eagerly planning to introduce similar legislation.

Statistics Canada notes that since 2005, unionized jobs in Canada have disappeared twice as fast as non-unionized jobs. The Ontario government is now moving to make it illegal for the bus and subway drivers to strike. City council wants to privatize garbage collection.

The conservatives have been able to take complete ownership of this debate. Rather than examine an economic system that now has half of us working in minimum wage jobs (read “VitalSigns 2010”), we penalize the less than 20% of us who still have a middle-income wage and health care.

The Democrats/Liberals have to take much of the blame for this. As Ariel mentioned yesterday, the liberals/democrats have allowed the conservatives to frame the question, set the political agenda, and begin to dismantle much of the progressive political work done over the last half century.

In Canada, the corporate tax base in the 1960’s financed 60% of the cost of hospitals, schools, highways, infrastructure and all the other things our governments provide. Now they fund less than 7% of the tax base.

If you “google” corporate tax loopholes, the first article you will find explains how Google itself used loopholes to save itself more than $3 billion in taxes last year.

Half of the top wages earners in North America (70% of the wealth) now effectively pay no taxes at all.

This is classic divide-and-conquer propaganda. The conservatives create the myth that unions are not competitive, and this justifies lowered wages, and distracts us from record corporate profits and the migration of jobs to even poorer international locations.

In the early 1900’s it was nothing for Pinkerton Guards to shoot union organizers at the bequest of corporate interests. People fought and died to end the 90 hour work week.

Now the pendulum swings back…to the 7 day shopping experience, frozen minimum wage, no benefits, and the right to open stores on Christmas Day.

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