Nathan Sass

Who Are Unions Really Fighting For In WI?

In Barack Obama, Economics, Scott Walker, Tea Party, WI Budget Battle on February 25, 2011 at 12:49 PM

The protests in Madison have been national news for over a week, with thousands of union members occupying the capital building around the clock.

In all honesty, their commitment to their cause is admirable and one must be truly impressed with the level of dedication shown by the protesters.  While it is probably true that at least some of these people were brought in from parts unknown to take part, and may accurately be referred to as “professional protesters”, there are many more who are just regular people displaying their passion on an issue important to them.

As part of the movement now referred to as the “Tea Party”, I can relate to these people, and I cannot allow myself to do to them what the media has done to the Tea Party demonstrators.  I refuse to lump them all into a monolithic group and dismiss them off hand.   (Even though lumping into a monolithic group is really the essence of a union, but I digress.)

I wonder is whether the union members so energized right now really know what they are fighting for.  I am sure they believe in their hearts that their cause is noble, and that what is at stake for them is their livelihood and ability to make ends meet.  With all due respect to those members, I think they are being intentionally misled by their own leadership.

The protests are highly organized pieces of political theater, with the union brass and powerful Democrat political types writing the script and directing the action.  The sitting President of the United States’ very own political organizing arm, Organizing for America, has been heavily linked to the demonstrations in Madison.

The rank and file member of the union has been told that this bill would destroy them financially, and worse yet may result in the loss of their jobs.  They are told that nothing less than their human rights are at stake.  To a certain extent that is true, but the people looking to deny the members their rights are not in the GOP or the Walker administration, they are in the offices of the unions themselves.

Key provisions in the bill require that all members of the union be free to choose to remain a member of that union or to leave it, that the union be re-certified every year by a majority of the membership, and that the unions be responsible for collecting their own dues.  These are rights that are denied today to union members, by the unions themselves.

No longer would a worker opting out of a union be bound to “fair share payments” which amount to paying dues to the union you expressly did not want to become a member of.

Gone is the practice of deducting union dues from members’ paychecks in a manner similar to tax withholding, requiring the unions to bill their members separately and at their own expense for the membership dues, triggering the normal human response of “is this worth that much to me?”.

The re-certification vote is then an official expression of the members opinion of the union itself, and about as American as apple pie.

The union leadership is in opposition to all of these provisions and for a very good reason.  These provisions remove from the brass the ability to maintain the status quo, and therefore their positions of privilege, political and financial power.  The last thing the Mary Bell’s (President of WEAC) of the world want is for their members to have anything approaching freedom to choose.

Right now the Mary Bell types are very important big shots.  They are invited to big Democrat fundraisers as guests of honor, get to have one on one meetings with powerful politicians like President Obama and Jim Doyle, and get to push their own personal political agenda using the power of the union they run.  They have become so bold that they are not even hiding it any longer.

The pet causes of the union leaders very often actually run contrary to the interests of their members, yet the members are generally powerless to prevent it and are never asked for permission before the union speaks out or spends the members’ money.  The unions, to my knowledge, do not have secret votes of the members to determine political donations, for example.

I would ask the good men and women who are in unions today to honestly ask themselves what exactly the union has done for them, personally.  In reality, most members of unions today probably see relatively little actual benefit from the dues they pay or the union that supposedly represents them.  Most of the union’s reason for being have become law, and the only thing really left to negotiate is pay, which unions must do poorly given all the complaints about techer compensation.

Members of WEAC should remember that for 8 years before Scott Walker was Governor, Jim Doyle was Governor with the endorsement of their union.  Over all those 8 years, WEAC still complained about the same things they are today: class size, wages, benefits, etc.  If the union is so essential to solving these things, why were they all not fixed with a state government 100% controlled by WEAC endorsed politicians?

If you are happy with the union, you absolutely are allowed to remain a member with no penalties, and I would encourage you to do so.  If you, however, come to the conclusion that the union does not work for you, but for itself, you can leave it completely.

I find it both ironic and sad that unions long ago stopped really caring about the welfare of their members, and are now just nothing more than an odd hybrid made up of a giant corporation like GE and a giant political special interest group like the NRA.  That  probably helps explain the membership decline in the private sector, as people became aware of this reality and declined to join or left. 

There was once a day when the AFL CIO president was perhaps the second most powerful man in America, and now few people even know his name.  That kind of loss of power has people like Mary Bell scared to death, and they are using their members as human shields protecting their special positions.  That is not only sad, it’s immoral.

My message to the members of the unions is simple: 

We are not at war with you.  We do appreciate your value and your skills.  We only seek to give you the freedom to choose, and to take away the ability of a powerful few to abuse their positions of power.  This was never about hurting or demonizing the members of unions.  It was, still is, and always will be about breaking the chains unions use to bind you and giving you back your liberty.

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  1. As a public sector employee, the ability to have the freedom of choice and opt out of the union and not have dues confiscated from our paychecks is the biggest issue for many of us. PLEASE, set us free! Pass the bill!

  2. Excellent points Mr. Sass. The only point I would maybe take issue with is that you said, “There was once a day when the AFL CIO president was perhaps the second most powerful man in America, and now few people even know his name.” I am not so sure about that.
    Seems to me that the President of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumpka, is very well known and in many ways become the ‘face’ for this protest. The media and the the ‘outsiders’ (such as OFA) are in some ways, taken charge.

    Why are Indiana state senators still ‘missing’ even AFTER their reason for running away was ‘removed’ by Govenor Daniels?

    Why are Van Jones and Moveon.org calling for protests in each and every state capitol today?

    Why is the NBC program MEET THE PRESS interviewing Govenor Walker and Richard Trumpka tomorrow on it’s show?

    I belive most people are well aware of just who Trumpka is and who and what organizations he is cozy with. By his own admission, he is in daily contact with the White House.

    I agree with you when you said, “As part of the movement now referred to as the “Tea Party”, I can relate to these people, and I cannot allow myself to do to them what the media has done to the Tea Party demonstrators. I refuse to lump them all into a monolithic group and dismiss them off hand.” ….. but I want to add that the media in general has been quite supportive of these protestors unlike with the Tea Party….. and the WI protestors are getting support from various groups outside their state.

    In closing, I would like to add that on Bill O’Reilly’s program last night, he mentioned the Wall Street Journal article written KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL. I believe many people were unaware that Federal employees do NOT have collective bargaining rights. O’Reilly used this information and her article in his ‘Talking Points Memo’ last night. He didn’t know that. Other’s he asked throughout his show did not know that. Will we hear any more about this?
    The article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703530504576164822561737348.html

  3. […] Who Are Unions Really Fighting For In WI? – 2/25/2011 […]

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