A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post contending that our faculty union ask the question, “Who does that help?” in response to every management initiative that seems to benefit nobody in any clear way. The point is to remind management that beyond the spreadsheets, formulae, and policies are actual human lives that count for something–including their own!
The events in Wisconsin, that is, the proposal that state employees lose collective bargaining rights so that the Governor can balance the budget (a claim that’s nonsense on its face), invite the same question.
If public employees in Wisconsin give up their right to bargain anything other than salary, who does that help? It helps the insurance companies that can change fees and coverages willy-nilly because they’re not negotiable anymore; it benefits school system managers who can make and enforce absurd curricular and other working conditions demands; it benefits employees NOT AT ALL. And neither does it solve a single penny of the budget “crisis.”
If the public employees accept the requirement that they have recertify their unions every year, who does that help? It helps opponents of unions who get much more frequent opportunities to intervene in organizing efforts. While some people might contend, “Well, that’s just democracy,” the fact that unions all have had certification elections in the first place (and could vote to decertify any time they wanted) makes that claim ancillary if not dishonest. That is, for those of you who like to shout “Elections have consequences,” yes, they do!
If public employees agree that non-union-members don’t have to pay fair share, who does that help? It helps the employees who then ditch their union membership but still benefit from the work the unions do–unless the unions then decide not to represent those workers. The reptilian part of my brain is OK with the idea that people could bail on their union memberships–if they then chose to negotiate their own salaries and benefits; if they never filed any grievances; if they never accepted any of the workplace protections the unions won for them; and so on. No, I wouldn’t really want to see that.
The short version is this: Governor Walker’s proposal helps the public-sector workers of Wisconsin NOT AT ALL. It helps the working people of Wisconsin NOT AT ALL. It helps wealthy private interests who want to bust unions. It helps one political party that hates unions. That is, it concedes huge amounts of political power to people whose ethics are already so questionable that to give them even more power is, at best, utterly and completely foolhardy.
And who does THAT help?