Metafilter has a good thread this evening on the current assault against collective bargaining in America, which is being led by state governments beset by debt. Here’s the post that kicked off the conversation. I’d encourage you, though, to check out the original, posted by a fellow calling himself Saul Goodman, which is chock full of links.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker says the National Guard is prepared to respond to unrest among state workers: “Gov. Scott Walker says the Wisconsin National Guard is prepared to respond if there is any unrest among state employees in the wake of his announcement that he wants to take away nearly all collective bargaining rights.” NY Times offers more reporting on Walker’s proposals here. Notably, Walker is reportedly refusing even to negotiate with the public employee unions. Though Walker’s carefully worded announcement avoided any specific commitments about how guard troops might be used much beyond noting the Wisconsin Governor’s concern that “some union leaders will try to incite their members,” a look back at the history of the labor movement in the US reveals that this wouldn’t be the first time in US history the National Guard has been called upon to respond to labor unrest, and that the results haven’t always been pretty.
These latest developments come at a time when many observers have been warning of a major assault on the labor movement for some time, both in the US and internationally. Commenters in the UK and US warn: “An assault on unions is an assault on democracy itself,” and “As go the unions, so goes the nation.” The New York Times, meanwhile, reports that states across the nation are taking steps to curtail collective bargaining rights in response to a nationwide state budget crisis. It remains to be seen if states are also prepared to renege on their contractual obligations to state bond holders, although politicians have quietly begun discussing the possibility of allowing states to declare bankruptcy for the first time in the nation’s history, a move which critics have also cautioned might be used to provide anti-labor proponents further political ammunition against labor, alleging that current state budget shortfalls (which appear to be due more to poor state financial management than the recent economic downturn) have been part of a deliberate Republican strategy to force the politics of the situation to a crisis in order to justify its union busting efforts.
Some are accusing the fellow who posted this of hyperbole, stating that Scott “Wisconsin is open for business” Walker is likely only readying the National Guard in case they’re needed to step in and take over critical state functions now performed by unionized employees, like prison guards. Regardless, however, I think it’s hard to deny that there’s a strong anti-union sentiment brewing among the Tea Party set, and that there will likely be clashes in the near future, as hard-won gains made by the unions over these past several decades are rolled back for the stated goal of balancing budgets.
In related news, the film version of Ayn “I’m a hypocrite who depended on Medicare like the worthless, filthy ‘parasites’ I wrote about in my books” Rand’s seminal work of pro-business deregulation porn, Atlas Shrugged, will be coming to theaters soon. Here, for those of you with strong stomachs, is the trailer.
[Today's post is brought to you by Ann "I think there should be more jailed journalists" Coulter.]