Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Scott Walker vs. the Unions
Republican Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker
From mid-February to late March of 2011, the State of Wisconsin was embroiled in a series of protests that occurred amid a legal battle which developed in the state legislature.
In order to address a projected budget deficit, newly-elected Republican Governor Scott Walker proposed legislation which would have required state employees to contribute more of their salaries to cover the costs of their own health care premiums and pensions; taken away public employee unions’ ability to negotiate on wages, health benefits, and vacations; stopped requiring the State to collect union dues on the behalf of public-sector workers; and required more frequent negotiations between public employee unions and the State.
The bill would have weakened collective bargaining rights for many public employees, and it would have abolished such rights for certain classes of employees such as health workers and University of Wisconsin faculty. Governor Walker threatened to fire six thousand state employees in the event of failure to pass the legislation.
Left-wingers of all varieties – from Democrats to real, live self-described socialists, communists, Marxists, anarchists, and radicals – immediately rallied in solidarity against Governor Walker. Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio even appeared on the Fox Business Network, arguing that the freedom of speech (which is to be interpreted as the freedom of expression) and the right of the people to peaceably assemble – which are protected from legislation by the First Amendment – make collective bargaining a constitutionally-protected right which shall not be infringed by the law.
Being that the law does not and cannot give us rights, but rather that the law can only protect existing rights from infringement, if the right to bargain collectively is protected by law, then that right must have existed before any law was written in order to protect and preserve that right. But where did that right come from?
Is the right to collectively bargain inherent in our right to self-ownership, or is it inherent in natural law, given to us by our creator? In whichever of these ways you may respond that such a right has always existed within nature and within man, how can you claim that the right to collective bargaining has always existed when it was only first conceived of less than a hundred and fifty years ago?
It would seem logical that the right to collectively bargain could not have preceded the conception of the idea of collective bargaining in the first place. So, naturally, the right to collectively bargain can only be as old as the ability to collectively bargain. But the right is not derived from the ability; rather, the legal right to collectively bargain in the United States is derived from judicial interpretation of the Constitution, and the right to collective bargaining is protected by the ability to collectively bargain.
For – just as with any other supposed “right” – the only way to find out whether something is really a right or merely a privilege is to attempt to assert the ability to exercise that supposed right. A union of workers can only ensure that it retains the right to collectively bargain by proving that it retains the ability to collectively bargain without the protection of privilege guaranteed by the State. Might makes right.
A union must prove that it remains capable of retaining enough members whom are willing to agree to demand a certain minimum standard of monetary compensation and benefits from their employers so that those employers have no choice but to give in to the workers’ demands or else face their own bankruptcy and dismantlement of their companies or resort to hiring those with insufficient skills. If unions can do this, they need neither the State nor its laws to uphold their right or privilege to collectively bargain.
When people wish to be granted privileges, they turn to law and to the State. When people wish to prove their abilities through action, they turn to themselves and to one another. When people wish to assert their right to engage in an action, they have to be willing to find out whether the State will grant them the privilege of refraining from curtailing their ability to perform that action. They would have to use the laws to codify their privileges, and continually ensure that such laws remain unaltered.
Whether you’re seeking privileges or rights, you must acknowledge publicly that you intend to afford the State an opportunity either to consent or to dissent. But if all you wish to prove is your ability, you need neither to seek the involvement of, nor acknowledge the legitimacy of, nor submit to, the State. However, it is not only the privileges and the rights to collectively bargain which exist at the mercy of the State; the State may also infringe on the ability to collectively bargain whenever and however it pleases.
Submission to State decision-making is the key to both the legitimacy and the efficacy of the modern labor movement. Today, the vast majority of collective bargaining and negotiation is done through labor unions. This is because the State affords the unions the privilege to act within the framework of the law. Since 1935, it has been federal law that companies may not refuse to engage in collective bargaining with the union that represents their employees.
Notice that, in that last sentence, I said “the union”, and neither “the unions”, nor “any unions”. It is a rare and controversial practice in the labor movement for there to be more than one union representing the employees of a single company. This means that, usually, the goal of a labor union is to – dare I say it – monopolize… the representation of the workers to their employers.
Part of Governor Walker’s proposed legislation would have required public employees to participate in an annual secret ballot regarding whether they should stay unionized. The legislation also would have permitted state and local public employees to refuse to join unions.
These two reforms obviously would have risked weakening the ability of public-sector unions to remain in existence and to maintain and / or increase the number of members whom they represent, and if the exclusive right to represent the people within a given territory which is wielded by governments has taught us anything, it’s that if you can’t compel people to accept your exclusive, monopolistic authority, there’s no fun in representing them at all.
Many claimed that to oppose Governor Walker’s legislation was to support individual rights. But how are individual rights protected when a majority of the representatives of the people can vote to prohibit individual workers from choosing whether to become or remain a member of a union?
From the other side of the issue, how are individual rights protected when a majority of the representatives of the people can vote to require individual workers to participate in a vote on whether to remain unionized? And – given that Governor Walker did not propose that Wisconsin become a Right-to-Work state – how could the legislation which he proposed have served to uphold the right of individual workers to choose to leave a union?
The labor unions in America haven’t wholly supported individual rights for just over a century. In 1908, the leaders of the Industrial Workers of the World began to split on the issue of whether to pursue either legalistic, political tactics or direct-action tactics such as strikes and boycotts. Those who favored political tactics split off of the I.W.W. in 1924, and subsequently formed their own organization and political party.
The resistance to Governor Walker’s proposed legislation had little – if anything – to do with individual rights, and everything to do with the power and privilege of the public employee unions. Individual workers simply let the unions manipulate them by framing the issue in the manner in which the unions saw appropriate. How some of the anti-Walker protesters could find it logical to describe themselves as socialists, communists, Marxists, anarchists, and / or radicals is beyond me.
Karl Marx wanted the workers of the world to unite. If Marx had his way, the workers of the world would not be divided along the lines of gender or sexual orientation, ethnicity or national origin, race or color, religion or creed, family background or class, experience or ability. Marx wanted what the I.W.W. originally wanted: the abolition of the wage system, workplace democracy and self-management, and grassroots democratic governance.
What have the politically-oriented labor unions given us? The minimum wage, for one. But the passage of minimum wage laws doesn’t constitute the abolition of the wage system; for the minimum wage is a wage.
How does the minimum wage protect the individual rights of laborers? Does it not interfere with an individual’s ability to voluntarily choose to labor for a more modest compensation if and when he deems such compensation reasonable and sufficient for himself, especially if his skills are low and his education is poor, thus making it more difficult for him to be able to justify earning the minimum wage?
How is a worker to be expected to continue to adequately feed, clothe, and house his family if he is compelled to pay dues to a monopolistic labor union which mandates that he participate in a strike – at the risk of being fired – in order to demand better benefits and increased wages, a portion of which that union has the exclusive right to collude with the worker’s employer to extract from him, thus helping to increase the relative wealth and leverage of both the union and the employer over the worker?
How is the minimum wage law anything but a protective privilege of well-established native workers against minorities and recent immigrants whom are often of a lower level of skill and education, and therefore may find it beneficial and appropriate to work for a lower compensation, illegal though that level of compensation may be? Do not minimum wage laws therefore effectually discriminate on certain bases?
Is making the solidarity of workers immune from attempts to divide based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, race, color, religion, creed, family background, and class really worth sacrificing some degree of worker solidarity at the altar of an even-handed and fair discrimination on the basis of experience and ability for the sake of efficiency, efficacy, responsibility, and just deserts based on merit and proven competence?
Minimum wage laws do little other than help condemn the most destitute, the poorest-educated, the least-skilled, and the least societally well-adapted among us to lives of further-entrenched poverty, continued lack of education, lack of opportunity to learn and accumulate skills, and further social ostracism.
Minimum wage laws divide the labor movement by nationalizing, ethnicizing, and racializing strikes, causing workers to fear replacement by minority and immigrant laborers whom are willing to work for decreased and often illegal levels of compensation, thereby exacerbating public resentment and animosity towards those peoples in general.
As laws which exist within the framework of the State, minimum wage laws do nothing to help along the Marxist strategy of violently overthrowing the oppressive bourgeois capitalist State, but rather merely make such a State appear less oppressive, and make submission to it and compromise with it seem more palatable and acceptable to the average laborer.
Minimum wage laws do little – if anything – to ensure either the ability or the effectiveness of the people to carry out the objectives of Marx and of the I.W.W. to organize strikes or boycotts, come to self-manage workplaces, or form grassroots democratic governantial agencies.
However, amid the resistance to Governor Walker’s proposed legislation, there were, in fact, boycotts. Not the types of boycotts in which large numbers of people came together to decry the practices of certain businesses and to educate people about how and why those practices are insufferable, though; just the types of boycotts in which a few people here and there tacitly declined to frequent places of business which neglected to post easily-visible signs indicating their support of the unions and / or their disapproval of Governor Walker and / or his proposed legislation.
And, amid the resistance to Governor Walker’s proposed legislation, there was, in fact, a general strike. Just not the type of general strike in which massive numbers of people whose workplaces would not be directly affected by the legislation actually risked their own continued employment, though; just the type of general strike in which a few employees here and there decided to use to their advantage the terms of their employment contracts and the rules of their workplaces which would permit them to work less while remaining within the boundaries of what constitutes just enough work not to risk getting fired. That ought to show ‘em.
During the course of the controversy and the protests, one opponent of Governor Walker who worked at a local restaurant in Madison complained to a reporter that his employer behaved as would a fascist dictator.
But it seems to me – as it would to any reasonable person – that a fascist dictator of an employer would be more likely to dictate compensatory pay and benefits, conditions of employment, and work hours to his employee, and command him to work against his will than he would to give his employee the opportunity to negotiate compensatory pay and benefits, conditions of employment, and work hours; once when that employee interviews for the job, and then again – repeatedly and continuously throughout the course of his employment – as he proves that he deserves the compensation and conditions which he desires.
You can argue as long as you would like that people are enslaved by tyrannical, corrupt, despotic leaders in government; greedy, uncaring, exploitative, profit-extracting employers; or by the fact that hundreds of years ago, royals and aristocrats enclosed their private lands, causing the commoners to be kicked off of their agricultural plots the crops they grew on which sustained their lives and their livelihoods, leading them to flee to the rapidly-industrializing city centers, which enabled a rent- and mortgage-controlled system to come into being in which landlords have come to wield ultimate direct economic power over the lives of their low-income tenants.
But eventually, you’re going to have to face the fact that you are not enslaved by any single one of these entities – nor even, truly, by all of them combined – anywhere near as much as you are enslaved by your own needs, wants, and desires; your decision to assume the responsibility to provide for yourself and for those who depend on you; your decision to give yourself and your loved ones the lives and livelihoods which you have chosen to attempt to make manifest; and by your own willingness to continue to survive.
Does labor enslave you, or does labor make you free? Perhaps labor only enslaves you if you resign yourself to feel like a slave; begrudging your labor, and cursing your employer for how little he gives you. Remember, you don’t have to give your employer that which you consider to be the full product of your labor if you do not wish to do so. You can even define what constitutes the full product of your labor however you may wish.
But all enduring and productive relationships exist for some mutual benefit, because value itself is subjective. Your employer values your labor more than he values his own money, and you value your employer’s money more than you value your own labor. When employer and laborer freely and voluntarily choose to enter into a labor contract with one another, each is effectively giving the other a gift in the subjective judgment of each party.
Isn’t it fulfilling to give charitably? Each party should be grateful, and rejoice in the opportunity to serve the other. Each should rejoice in his ability and opportunity to freely choose to do a good deed for another human being.
So… back to you, Happy Noodle Boy. Fascist dictatorship, eh? Where’s your machete and your red-and-black diagonal flag? You really think you’re a socialist, a communist, a Marxist, an anarchist, a radical? I don’t see you doing anything to bring about a workplace democracy in your restaurant. I don’t see you violently overthrowing your boss, who probably worked his way up from entry-level like yourself. I don’t see you starting your own commune or grassroots-democratic governantial organization. I don’t see you leading or participating in strikes or boycotts.
You want to know what I see? I see someone who’s glad the minimum wage law exists, because he thinks that a living wage is a right and not a privilege. I see someone who considers himself fortunate to qualify for such an inflated wage to begin with. Never mind that that wage recently increased forty percent over two years, settling high above the average going market rate for entry-level labor. Never mind that the dollar is continuously losing value, making the minimum wage law no guarantee of an increase in compensation or of your standard of living year-to-year. All of your suffering is the fault of your fascist boss, and not of your duly-elected progressive representatives in the United States Congress.
You want to know what I see? I don’t see an anarcho-socialist, or a radical, or anything like that. I see a Gradualistic-Reformist State-Syndicalist who’s always more than ready-and-willing to compromise with and submit to a Federalist Representative-Democratic Republican State in the context of a capitalistic socioeconomic system. I see a State Syndicalist, not an anarcho-syndicalist; a statist, not an anarchist. I see a reformist, not a radical.
I see someone whom is willing to beg the bourgeois capitalist State to enact labor-union reforms which could easily be achieved de-facto if only individual workers had not acquiesced to be manipulated by equal levels of monopolistic wielding of economic power; by labor unions through dues, by companies through profit, by government through taxes.
Someone whom is willing to overlook the fact that labor, management, and law are colluding to con him and mug him on a daily basis, as long as he gets his $7.25 an hour and can still prance about, shouting that his own boss and the governor of his State are the next Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Someone whom is willing to complain about bailouts, corporate welfare, and monopolies while neglecting to notice that big labor and big business have adopted and helped entrench and normalize within one another those worst two aspects of government behavior: bailouts and monopolization.
But how to solve the problem of monopolization? Might it be competition? I know, I know; competition inevitably leads to monopolization, I’ve heard it all before. Have you ever stopped to think about how monopolization is antithetical to competition? Successful monopolization does away with all competitors, and successful competition undermines monopolies. A monopoly may only be sustained through political choice by the public and / or through economic choice by consumers.
Perhaps if the public would take a little interest in learning about the people whom they elect to represent them and to amend the laws which govern them, and in the products which they buy, and whether and how well those products bring about the outcome which they intended to affect through the act of purchase, public and consumer choice could have the opportunity to work in concert with one another in order to act as a check on the development of the most effective and widely-known competitors into monopolies.
Maybe freer and more competitive choice in elections could help to undercut the duopoly of the Democratic and Republican parties, which so often seem indistinguishable from one another. Maybe a labor policy which permits an individual to become a member of more than one union at once – and which permits more than one union to represent the employees of any given company – would help to undercut the monopolies which the big labor unions so often wield.
Perhaps public-sector unions – i.e., government employee unions – have more leverage than private-sector unions because government has the power to pass the legislation which is necessary to ensure its own exclusive, monopolistic right to provide certain services to the public. But to undermine these monopolies, one would have to go into competition with the State itself.
To do that, private individual actors and non-governmental group actors such as communes, collectives, and public-interest groups would have to attempt to provide those services which are typically or exclusively provided by governmental entities. But which types of services? Any service the provision of which by government takes up a significant share of that service-market.
Does your government unsatisfactorily protect and defend you, usually doing more harm than good, leading you to question whether it truly is legally obligated to protect and defend you in the first place? If so, then why not protect and defend yourself? Why not protect and defend those whom would ask you to protect and defend them? Why not get together with the people in your community – especially those whom currently work or may have previously been employed as security guards, bodyguards, bouncers, or in military – to brainstorm tactics to better defend and protect one another?
Does your government unsatisfactorily sort your recycling, causing a significant amount of that which could be salvaged and put to good use to go back into the earth? If so, why not sort your recycling yourself? Why not sort the recycling of those whom would ask you to sort their own recycling? Why not get together with the people in your community – especially those whom currently work or may have previously been employed as sanitation workers and engineers – to brainstorm tactics to more efficiently put recycled materials to good use and re-use?
Does your government unsatisfactorily maintain the roads in your neighborhood, doing little to prevent the proliferation of damaged vehicle tires? If so, why not maintain those roads yourself? Why not maintain the roads which exist on the property of those whom would ask you to help maintain their own roads? Why not get together with the people in your community – especially those whom currently work or may have previously been employed as road workers, construction workers, or contractors – to brainstorm tactics to improve your community’s roads?
Why not start a local charity which would allocate funds to purchase the asphalt and rent the equipment which would be necessary to patch-up the roads? Why not discreetly fix the public roads in the middle of the night when you can be sure that nobody will drive on them and that none of the representatives or employees of your ineffective, absentee local government might ever suspect a thing?
So your governor has threatened to take away formal, institutionalized, legalistic collective bargaining privileges for teachers. Why not gather all the intelligent and highly-educated people in your community to tutor your children? God forbid they teach them some valuable life skills, trades, and critical thinking skills, rather than indoctrinate them with nationalist dogma and test their ability to memorize and repeat data.
So your governor has threatened to take away formal, institutionalized, legalistic collective bargaining privileges for health workers. Why not call all everyone you know whom currently works or has ever been employed as either a doctor, a surgeon, a physician, a dentist, an E.M.T., a nurse, a physical therapist, a homeopathic medical practitioner, or a medical student, plus anybody who knows C.P.R., and ask them to convene at a pre-determined location in your community in order to teach one another and the people of the town whatever useful information and skills they may have to pass on?
Why not start a local charity which allocates funds to purchase health insurance for your neighbors and / or to pay the most qualified among the experts who might need some extra cash to make ends meet or would like some form of modest compensation for their contribution?
In short, why not use competition and the tools of the free market to “starve the beast” and affect socialistic ends and the public good? At the very least, it could only serve to be conducive towards thrift, creativity, the hands-on passing-down and learning of knowledge and skills, and communal cohesion.
But I suppose that coming up with realistic, practical ways to use the free market, competition, entrepreneurship, and direct action to affect the public good and starve the State of legitimacy makes me a supporter of the oppressive, bourgeois, capitalist State. And I suppose that all capitalists favor the nationalization of corporations, bailout funds for big banks who rob the American populace, and everything Wall Street. Okay, you got me, all capitalists – even libertarians – support corporate welfare and statism.
You know who really loves corporate nationalization and giving bailout funds to big banks who rob the American populace? Tammy Baldwin, Democratic Congresswoman of Wisconsin’s 2nd district. A member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. A representative to the United States federal government who voted for T.A.R.P., the Troubled Asset Relief Program which cost this country around twelve trillion dollars by some moderate estimates.
So there you have it, all your progressivists are belong to nationalists. What do you do when you can no longer trust progressives to oppose corporate protectionism, which is what progressives were meant to oppose in the first place? Have the American people forgotten that many of the first progressives – such as Senator Robert LaFollette of Tammy Baldwin’s own home state of Wisconsin, and President Teddy Roosevelt – started out as Republicans?
Opposition to corporate nationalization and corporate protectionism is truly what progressivistic Democracy and libertarian Republicanism have in common. That’s why any serious, moral political strategy would unite Progressive Democrats and libertarian Republicans… In opposition to American militarism, big government, and executive power. In opposition to big labor and union privilege. In opposition to corporate welfare and business nationalization. In support of communal cohesion and the entrepreneurial American spirit. In support of the strength of unions and businesses against weakening and coddling by the State. In opposition to submission to legalistic, institutional tactics which can be achieved through hard work, responsibility, competition, innovation, creativity, and direct action.
If I had my way, there would be no government bailouts for big labor at the expense of big business and the taxpayers; there would be no government bailouts for big business at the expense of big labor and the taxpayers. There would be no government bailouts for big business and big labor at the expense of the taxpayers and government services; there would be no bailouts by government for itself and its own bureaucracies at the expense of labor, business, and the taxpayers.
There would be no simultaneous bailout of the top few auto-makers and the United Auto Workers’ union. There would be no bailouts whatsoever. Dependence on a guaranteed reward for behavior – whether good or bad – only serves to weaken and corrupt a man, as it does an organization.
What there would be is locally-managed aid and welfare for the poorest, the least-skilled, the least-educated, the least-privileged, the sick, the elderly, and the abandoned. What there would be is locally-managed aid and welfare for the small and local entrepreneurs and businesses which create and innovate, which are productive and industrious, and which make our cities and towns special, exceptional, and unique.
What there would be are competitive currencies helping to ensure a sound dollar manufactured by a responsible federal government without conspicuous attachment to aggressive, interventionist militarism, which could afford to help out those states, counties, cities, towns, and municipalities which struggle to solve deficits in their budgets.
Together we can achieve industrious and free enterprise, strong and effective labor, and humble and limited government, all competitive and independent. May the voice of this generation resound clearly throughout the annals of time and history: Corruption is Anarchy. Liberty is Order. Neither We the People of the United States of America; nor our liberty; nor our government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall perish from this Earth.
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