Not a Hill Worth Dying On

Ezra Klein makes the good point that, no matter how things turn out in Wisconsin, unions have made the point that eliminating collective bargaining is going to be far more pain than it’s worth. That’s why Scott in Florida and Daniels in Indiana are running away.

As the poll shows, like a lot of other principles, collective bargaining is popular in the abstract, probably because it’s considered a fundamental right. It’s just dumb politics to attempt to punish your political opponents by removing a fundamental right a few weeks after taking office. It makes you look small and petty, and it also makes your allies (like police unions) wonder if they’re next. Walker may die on this hill, but nobody else is following him up.






28 replies
  1. 1
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    The Dallas Morning News has its editorial about how Walker is just trying to “weaken” the powers of the unions. I’m angry enough I cannot figure out the best way to respond to it.

  2. 2
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    What pisses me off are people who just assume that the 40 hour work week fell out of the sky somehow, and that unions had nothing to do with the structure of the American workplace today, not that the parasite overclass isn’t eager to roll back every gain that union action has made over the last century or so. People fought and died for a lot of things that a lot of people take for granted nowadays.

  3. 3
    MattF says:

    I sort of agree, but Reagan fired the air-traffic controllers and became a hero. How did that happen? Was it a special case?

  4. 4
    General Stuck says:

    It’s just dumb politics to attempt to punish your political opponents by removing a fundamental right a few weeks after taking office.

    Back when there were some adults in charge of the GOP and conservative movement, frontal assaults like this wouldn’t happen, unless initiated from the other side, like the air traffic controllers. Everything was done in a cloud of purposeful fog. The prime strategy for winger braintrust was to never get themselves into situations that created clear lines of contrast with liberals and their people friendly domestic policies, because when that happened the right wing would be exposed to their ultimate purpose and folks would side with the left, or dems. Only those issues where they knew they had the advantage, like tax cuts, were openly flogged. This must be making old gooper bulls like Jam Baker just shake their heads and sigh.

  5. 5
    jayjaybear says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    This is the aspect of modern union-poormouthing that really gets me steamed. The average person, whether they’re working as a day laborer or a CEO, has no knowledge of the Labor Movement. None. They don’t know that there hasn’t always been a 40-hour workweek, a two-day weekend, a minimum wage or OSHA. They’ve never heard of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, or the Pinkertons, or the National Guard killing strikers. They have NO IDEA that people actually DIED to give them what they take for granted.

  6. 6
    RalfW says:

    Ohio and Tennessee still have Idiot Quixotes tilting at unions. And in Tennessee, aka, Dixie, that’s probably a slim public majority position.

  7. 7
    jwb says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): The Austin paper had a weak tea editorial this morning as well, basically saying both sides are behaving badly and cooler heads need to prevail. Since the editorial couldn’t point to anything the unions and Dems were doing except the Democratic Senators not showing up, it made the editorial kind of incoherent. On the other hand, Texas is such a strong anti-union state that I wasn’t really surprised the editorial came out the way that it did.

    I was surprised to see the NY Times editorial this morning. Given the tenor of their news coverage, I really wasn’t expecting it.

  8. 8
    Face says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: This is my wife. She kneejerked herself into bashing the AWOL Dems, before I explained to her that her job, likely her decent salary, her maternity leave, etc. are likely all thanks to unions. She quickly STFU and changed her tune. I wonder how many other Americans are just as clueless.

  9. 9
    Chris says:

    Thanks for the poll. Though I’m sure the Republicans will find a way to ignore it like every time public opinion goes against them.

    Too infuriating to comment in depth on now, maybe some other time. It’s not enough that his patrons are at the lowest tax bracket in eighty years, it’s not enough that he destroyed the deficit in order to finance them, it’s not even enough that the union already agreed to cutbacks. Oh no, you’ve got to abolish the right to collectively bargain just on the off chance that the workers might have one right left.

    I really fucking hate Republicans.

  10. 10

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): Of course he wants to weaken the unions. Unions provide the working person’s only real access to political power. This gets overlooked in talks about pensions, etc. but I don’t think Walker has overlooked it at all. In these days of “Citizens United” how else can the wherewithal to stand against the large corporate interests be put together? Union member or not, working people stand to benefit from union actions, especially in helping to elect candidates who are open to the concerns of the workers and Walker’s partisans don’t care for that idea.

  11. 11
    stuckinred says:

    @Face: How deep is the ocean?

  12. 12
    jwb says:

    @Face: Yes, well what the Wisconsin 14 are doing is rather extreme, so I can understand why your wife had the initial reaction she did; but politics sometimes calls for extreme action of this sort to draw attention to what is going on and to give time for political opposition to organize and build. Since this quorum busting is more or less the equivalent of a massive filibuster, however, it does make me wonder if any folks have reconsidered their objections to our fine Senate tradition. It makes me think I want to retain the filibuster but attach more costs to exercising it.

  13. 13
    Dan says:

    The problem for republicans is that if they continue to piss off each of the factions that make up the democratic coalition, they are helping the dems assemble the 50.1 percent of the electorate they will need in 2012.

  14. 14
    Wil says:

    What pisses me off are people who just assume that the 40 hour work week fell out of the sky somehow, and that unions had nothing to do with the structure of the American workplace today

    They don’t know that there hasn’t always been a 40-hour workweek, a two-day weekend, a minimum wage or OSHA.

    Not that the main goal here is to piss off wingnuts, but they get very pissed off (and have no comeback) when you mention things we take for granted today that we owe to unions.

    I’d like to offer a SUGGESTION to everybody, and John Cole too.

    I have a cafepress.com site (long out of date) that I used during the Bush years to sell anti-GOP bumperstickers and other similar stuff. There are at least a few of my bumperstickers in every single state. North Dakota was the last holdout.

    I’m sure I’m not the only one with some kind of mini-business like this, and John has his Tunch products.

    How about we start making some pro-union T-shirts, stickers, etc. that remind people of what unions have done?

    Like, “If you like weekends, thank Unions. They won that right for you in 19xx”

    “If you prefer an 8-hour day to working 12 or 16 hours, thank Union labor. It won that right for you in 19xx”

    “If you like safe working conditions, thank Union labor. It won those rights for you in 19xx, 19xx, 19xx, etc.”

    “If you like paid vacations, or ANY vacations, thank Unions. They won that right for you in 19xx.”

    Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

    There is a lot more real estate for words on a T-shirt than a sticker (and there is something inherently stupid about bumperstickers even though I have them in 50 states.)

    Part of the reason so many people don’t have any idea about how most of the rights they take for granted came from union members fighting and dying for those rights is because it never gets talked about, our corporate media never mentions it, and labor unions themselves are a lot smaller than they used to be….and our populace is kinda ignorant, just sayin’….

    I’d like to suggest (humbly) that John consider making and selling T-shirt like my suggestions above, or something similar that works better than my off-the-top-of-my-head idea…..and the rest of us who have some kind of similar site do the same.

    One big problem with labor unions is that they’ve become all but invisible in modern life. Who are the leaders? What are the different unions? Why is there no Martin Luther Kind figure issuing a clarion call from Wisconsin? Instead we hear that “union leaders” have said this or that, and that “committee groups have decided” something or other.

    Passive language is the rule….”Planning for a Saturday march has begun.”

    Absent charismatic leaders, at least we can get a few thousand people wearing pro-union shirts and reminding folks just where their rights came from.

    Thoughts? Opinions?

  15. 15
    JohnR says:

    Distinguish between ideologues and others. Walker seems to be an ideologue; guys like Scott in Fla (a standard crook) and Christie in NJ (a standard politiboss) care about their jobs because that’s where the goodies come from. They can be reasoned with as long as you can threaten their jobs. Ideologues are like Terminators – you can’t reason with them and they don’t stop coming at you. The job is only a means to an end, and there’s a weird ‘self-sacrificial’ vibe they have that lets them enjoy being “punished” for Doing The Right Thing No Matter How Many Children Don’t Appreciate It. To an ideologue, ‘compromise’ doesn’t involve giving up anything; it just means taking less than he wants, but he keeps in mind that next time he’ll get more. Let’s hope that enough of the legislators can be resposnsive enough to job security threats that they respond. I don’t see Walker doing anything but going down heroically with all guns blazing (in his mind, anyway).

  16. 16
    Chris says:

    @Wil:

    Could change independents’ minds – of course the comeback to that is “unions were useful once, but now they’ve served their purpose.” Course, they make the same argument about government regulations, and look where that got us, but whatever.

    If you go on an actual wingnut website where they feel safe enough not to bullshit, you will actually hear them bitch about how the real story of the Gilded Age was “union thugs” attacking their beloved Galtian heroes and how they totally deserved to get shot, the filthy communist swine. Quite scary, actually: reading that shit in the comments section of Bill Whittle’s website was one of the things that originally made me realize there was something seriously fucking wrong with the conservative movement, back when I was just exploring politics on the web.

    @JohnR:

    Pretty good summary of Walker and his brand of fanatics. Don’t know about the guy in Florida, but I agree with the assessment of Christie as just the latest in a long line of political machine bosses.

  17. 17

    It drives me crazy that I keep hearing this argument that since everybody ELSE’s unions and benefits have vanished (i.e. been outsourced overseas) THEREFORE government union employees are making these obscene amounts of cash and living the life of the indolent plutocrat.

    Calculatedly satanic, nobody bothers to respond to what OUGHT to be a softball: So, if everybody ELSE got fucked by the robber barons, you ought to, too???!?

    Hell, even your mom never bought that argument.

    I guess nobody’s mom is ever quoted in the coverage.

  18. 18
    Violet says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    What pisses me off are people who just assume that the 40 hour work week fell out of the sky somehow, and that unions had nothing to do with the structure of the American workplace today, not that the parasite overclass isn’t eager to roll back every gain that union action has made over the last century or so. People fought and died for a lot of things that a lot of people take for granted nowadays.

    Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert could help out by doing a segment on the history of unions. Either one could do it in an “imitate Glenn Beck” type of segment. Jon Stewart did a lot of good with the 9/11 responder stuff he did. Offering a history lesson about the rights we have today being because of unions could be extremely educational and helpful for a lot of his his viewers.

  19. 19

    I still think you underestimate how important the elimination of collective bargaining for state employees would be for the Republicans, both its electoral consequences as union money and votes diminish, and its broader social consequences.

    This isn’t about winning some ephemeral debate. This is capturing a bridge over the Rhine, and if they’ve got brains in their heads, they’ll be willing to take major casualties for it. It’ll make them unpopular in the next election cycle? So what? It would fundamentally change the balance of power between labor and capital in this country.

    Let’s just hope the party of selfishness can’t find anyone willing to fly the kamikaze planes.

  20. 20
    Stillwater says:

    @joe from Lowell: It’ll make them unpopular in the next election cycle? So what? It would fundamentally change the balance of power between labor and capital in this country.

    This can’t be stated enough. Trying to understand the current GOP-led assault on labor through the prism of pure politics is a mistake. This is a game changer, with long term institutional and cultural consequences. It codifies (as does legislation like requiring 2/3 majorities for tax increases, unilateral executive control of the ‘public interest’, no bid contracts, etc) the preferred policies of the investor class at the expense of labor and little-d democracy.

  21. 21
    Stillwater says:

    @Violet: If US citizens actually learned US history in a reality-based setting, free from ideological bullshit and propaganda, the populist responses to the Gilded age would make perfect sense, and a clear line of democratically-driven restrictions on the ‘rights’ of capital, enacted and imposed by a democratic government, would be understood and accepted without dispute. That people think we need to re-invent the wheel every 15 years by taking government out of markets, and that the antidote to the current malaise is to eliminate the rights of labor, is a testament to the power and effectiveness of disinformation campaigns funded by the wealthy.

  22. 22
    Stillwater says:

    @Wil: at least we can get a few thousand people wearing pro-union shirts and reminding folks just where their rights came from.

    Will those t-shirts be made in the USA by union labor?

    I kid…

  23. 23
    piratedan says:

    hell how many of you had the Ludlow massacre covered in your civics class? Matewan? the 1970 postal workers strike? UPS workers strike in 97? The thing is over the last 20 years the only union issues that have made the front pages are those regarding the entertainment industry (Hollywood writers and pro athletes) and as such, they’re kind of tainted how American perceive unions, at least amongst the latest generations.

  24. 24
    Stillwater says:

    @piratedan: And don’t forget the Caterpillar strikes, where everyone cheered when Cat management said that if the union didn’t take their first-and-last offer, they’d happily ship those jobs overseas. Which they eventually did.

  25. 25
    Karen says:

    @General Stuck:

    Back when there were some adults in charge of the GOP and conservative movement, frontal assaults like this wouldn’t happen, unless initiated from the other side, like the air traffic controllers. Everything was done in a cloud of purposeful fog.

    Those Republicans would now be called RINOs. RINOs are now an endangered species.

    These new Tea Party flavor GOPs are like cockroaches who don’t bother to hide when the light turns on. They’re so bold because they know that no one cares what they do so why bother with the subterfuge?

    Because there is no one to hold them in check anymore, the new Tea Party GOP is now free to legislate all their wet dreams: killing unions, killing women …oh excuse me…..killing all poor women who are not White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, killing poor people slowly, declaring themselves immune from Federal law..just to name a few.

    Now they did their evil out front and in the open.

  26. 26
    HyperIon says:

    @Chris:

    of course the comeback to that is “unions were useful once, but now they’ve served their purpose.”

    Just like the constitution, no?

  27. 27
    Karen says:

    @Face:

    I used to work in the collections department for Hechts, a May company department store that no longer exists. ti hey moved to Earth City, Misouri which put me out of a job. I found out that not only did the customer service and collections department from Hechts move there but those departments from every May company store moved there. Why? Because Misouri is a right to work state. They were forced to deal with unions when the May company bought a department store chain called Woodward and Lothrup, which had union representation up til that point. The May company changed those to Hechts and Lord and Taylor but the workers from those companies got paid much more than we did because of the unions. Once they moved to Misouri, no more union.

    The reason why unions are now known as the villains is that Big Business has formed the narative of the greedy Union workers whose demand for higher wages can put the poor businesses out of business. And they’ve been using that narative forever.

  28. 28

    […] only silver lining is that I think this overreach will lead to a backlash. Most Americans side with the unions in the Wisconsin fight. And I imagine even more would be up in arms about the no-bid contracts. Top […]

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