What the United States of America has witnessed over the past three weeks in Wisconsin is extremely historic and a big deal for all Americans. We should not view the events of Wisconsin (and soon to be Ohio and other states) in isolation.
Following the election of Governor Scott Walker (R) legislation was introduced with austerity measures included to streamline the state budget. Aside from asking public workers to reduce their benefit packages an unusual provision was inserted that would radically change the process of collective bargaining by state workers. Of course, Governor Walker said such was necessary to balance the budget. Baloney!
The state budget is far less of the issue than is a political attempt to weaken unions, in this case public ones that include teachers, firemen, and police. And, while some Wisconsin unions who supported Governor Walker were exempted from the legislation restricting collective bargaining the attack on workers is no less venomous.
Teachers, in particular, are one segment of the American workforce that needs a reduction in benefits the least. In most public school districts teachers are excruciatingly underpaid and violently overworked. Teachers are asked to fill the function of parent, psychologist, truant officer, and fight referee, in addition to their primary purpose of teaching. And, by the way, the pay received for teaching is a national disgrace.
The National Education Association has done an excellent job of representing the rights of educators from Nevada to North Carolina. Yet, politically some see the NEA as less than the academic advocates that they serve.
In the face of sub-standard educational attainment by American students (as compared the students around the world) some politicians like Governor Walker would suggest that the NEA and teachers' unions are to blame. Double baloney!
Fact is, student achievement may well have as much to do with a federal commitment to fund public education as any other factor. Currently, the American government only funds nine percent of public school funds. The remaining 91percent of public education funding is derived from state, county, and local educational funding streams. While our nation pumps paltry pennies into public education our global competitors (China, India, Pakistan, etc.) fully fund their public education systems. In fact, of the 118 industrialized nations, the United States the only one that does not fully fund public education. Worse still, there seems to be little support for full funding of American education from U.S. Education Secretary Arnie Duncan.
Moreover, the idea of reducing the power of unions is not new. The history of union busting attempts fills the annals of American elitism. Following major union street battles such as the Haymarket case union membership has always met resistance by the wealthy and political parties that do the bidding for the rich.
As a result of the blood shed by union workers all Americans enjoy several employment privileges:
• 5-day work week (thus, weekend)
• 40-hour work week
• 8-hour work day
• Safe and Healthy workplaces
• Child labor protections
The contributions of unions in this country to improve the daily lives and bank accounts of working people politicians like Governor Walker who believe in the privatization of public education blame unions—public and private—for the tremendous national debt. Triple Baloney! Let the record reflect that it was the private profiteers on Wall Street—not unions—who bankrupted the national treasury without a single Wall Streeter going to jail.
If Governor Walker and his wealthy friends have their way in state governments across the nation the United States will be less of a democracy than capital-lacy wherein the wealthy rule, and everyone else are the mules.
Working people must realize that the evil plan is an attack on unions, then you.
All who believe in justice and fairness must take a stand for righteousness.
Gary L. Flowers is the Executive Director & CEO of the Black Leadership Forum, Inc.