08 March 2011

What's At Stake ... Political Power

From this defense of unions by Jacob Hacker & Paul Pierson at The Washington Post:

“The battle between Republicans and labor unions in Ohio, Wisconsin and other states is ostensibly about public workers' pay, benefits and bargaining rights. What is really at stake, however, isn't labor's income. It's labor's influence - not just in the American workplace but in American politics.

Critics of unions cast them as exclusive clubs for which the rest of Americans pay the dues. Wisconsin's GOP governor, Scott Walker, likes to say that unions are the "haves" and everyone else the "have-nots." And it's certainly true that unions aggressively pursue their own interests - sometimes to others' detriment. When asked in the early 20th century what the American Federation of Labor wanted, the union's gruff head, Samuel Gompers, famously replied, 'More.'

But unions play another role, too - one more like that of civic groups than private associations. Although they want "more" for their members, they also want to make good middle-class jobs the norm. And the most important way they pursue this larger goal isn't by demanding concessions at the bargaining table, but by operating as a counterweight to the demands of corporations and Wall Street in the corridors of power. That is precisely why opponents of organized labor are seizing upon state fiscal troubles to try to destroy its remaining clout.”

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