This is Carl Bernstein in one of those he-said, he-said debates cable tv puts on. Here’s the set-up, followed by Bernstein’s opening:
CHRIS JANSING: A lot of people are saying this is the moment of truth, Carl, for the unions. Norman Adler, a longtime lobbyist for unions, told Politico – I’m going to quote him here – “Whatever happens in Wisconsin, this is going to be replicated elsewhere. The unions can’t back off of this – it would be like hiking up a white flag.” Is he right?
CARL BERNSTEIN, contributing editor, Vanity Fair magazine:
Well yeah, he’s right. First of all, there’s kind of an ahistoricism that’s taking place in Wisconsin, which is to deny the contributions of unions to the lives of working class people in this country. Virtually all of the job security, working conditions, good wages for workers, minimum wage come from the union movement in the 20th century. Less than fourteen percent of the workforce is now in unions, seven percent of them are in public service, public employee unions, and these people deserve the right to have collective bargaining. They’re willing to re-negotiate their pensions, but workers ought to have the right to collective bargaining. It’s a basic right that they’ve always enjoyed. This is also a very political, demagogic move by a governor who knows that the Democratic Party subsists to some extent on union contributions. It’s their biggest source of money, they want to cut it off at the knees, they see an opportunity here, and they utterly forget the role of unions in helping people in this country.
Good statement, and the debate (with Rick Lazio) begins and goes on from there, but that’s not what’s interesting to me.
This is the question Bernstein wants answered, pulled out of the transcript, in the sequence he asks it:
BERNSTEIN: What does it have to do with the right to collective bargaining? The unions are willing to negotiate – re-negotiate pensions. Everybody in America who works in a municipality knows that these pensions, which were given to workers in flush times, need to be adjusted.
BERNSTEIN: What’s it have to do with denying their right to bargain?
BERNSTEIN: Why shouldn’t a majority of workers be able to take a vote in an enterprise to affiliate with a union?
BERNSTEIN: All those questions are legitimate if you allow collective bargaining. That’s what negotiating and collective bargaining is about.
BERNSTEIN: Nobody’s arguing – nobody’s arguing that. What does that have to do with collective bargaining?
BERNSTEIN: When I was a member of a union – I’ve been on many collective bargaining committees, on many negotiating committees. What in the world is so scary about collective bargaining in which workers are able to negotiate with their employers?
BERNSTEIN: That’s more – what you’re saying though, that it’s wrong to fairly and honestly have a negotiation.
Now that Carl Bernstein has identified the only question that Walker and Kasich should have to answer would someone insist they answer it?