Skip to content Skip to footer

America Waking Up to Value of Unions

As Abraham Lincoln famously said

As Abraham Lincoln famously said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” When you put enough dots in front of people sooner or later they will connect the dots. And Americans are connecting the dots.

Dots: Trade deals close factories, outsource jobs and pit workers against each other, then wages decline and unemployment is really high, while all the money goes to a few at the top. Then calls to cut the wages and benefits of the rest.

Dots: Unions squashed, then pensions disappear, then calls to get rid of public-employee unions because they have pensions.

Dots: Tax cuts for the rich, then panic over resulting deficits, then calls for cuts in the things government does for We, the People.

People are connecting the dots: Unions mean better wages, benefits and working conditions.

There is a joke circulating that goes like this:

A unionized public employee, a member of the Tea Party and a Big Corp CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table there is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, looks at the tea partier and says, “Look out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie.”

Americans are waking up to the value of unions and government of, by and for We, the People.

The situation in Wisconsin is waking America up to the value of unions. At a time when so many of us are hurting, seeing this naked attempt to strip from Wisconsin’s public employees the ability to bargain for a better life is resonating. A CBS/NY Times poll finds that “a majority of Americans say they oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions and are also against cutting the pay or benefits of public workers to reduce state budget deficits.”

Further down in the story, “Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent.”

Click here to get Truthout stories like this one sent straight to your inbox, 365 days a year.

On how to fix budget deficits, “those polled preferred tax increases over benefit cuts for state workers by nearly two to one.”

Union Information Blackout In Corporate Media

Interestingly, though, from the polling story, “Labor unions are not exactly popular, though: A third of those surveyed viewed them favorably, a quarter viewed them unfavorably, and the rest said they were either undecided or had not heard enough about them.”

Wow! More than 1/3 of the public hasn’t heard enough about unions to know if they like them or not! This is not surprising: When was the last time you read, saw or heard from a union in the major media, explaining the benefits of joining a union? There has been a virtual blackout of information about unions in the corporate media.

So this Wisconsin story is bringing home to people that there is this thing called “collective bargaining” that can help them in their own jobs!

Strategery FAIL

The plan was to spend a year claiming that public employees and their pensions were responsible for state budget deficits, then go after the unions. The strategy also threw in a dose of resentment: People were reminded that their pensions were stolen in the 80’s, but these uppity gubment workers still had pensions, so their pensions should be stolen too! But people are smarter then the plutocrats think, and they connected some more dots:

Dot: People in unions have good wages and benefits including pensions.

Well, that’s only one dot, but it doesn’t take a lot of neuron connections to realize this means that you should join a union, not be against unions! The resentment argument backfired, and people are waking up to the value of unions.

Unions Vital To Economy

Since the Reagan Revolution crushed unions wages for everyone except a few at the top have been flat. In the ‘W’ Bush decade even before the financial crash wages were declining and job growth was anemic. And wages have been stagnant since this “recovery” began. This wage stagnation is the result of of the loss of the bargaining power of working people.

Working people’s share of the benefits from increased productivity took a sudden turn down when the Reagan Revolution crushed unions:

Wage stagnation resulted: (note boost in Clinton years, undoing some of the Reagan damage.)

Unions are vital to a middle class society. Corporations and the wealthy behind the corporate mask have so much power. The only forces that can counter that power and fight for the rest of us are the unions and democratic government. The Reagan Revolution began the elimination of both, bringing instead plutocracy — government of, by and for the wealthy. The resulting weakness in the power of working people to bargain for a fair share has left us with an economy that didn’t work when it was “recovering” under Bush, and now can’t get out of the recession. To lift the economy we have to lift wages.

Families are not sharing in the rewards, but they are waking up and connecting the dots. America is waking up to the value of unions.

March 10 Summit on Jobs and America’s Future

On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.

We have 4 days to raise $37,000 — we’re counting on your support!

For those who care about justice, liberation and even the very survival of our species, we must remember our power to take action.

We won’t pretend it’s the only thing you can or should do, but one small step is to pitch in to support Truthout — as one of the last remaining truly independent, nonprofit, reader-funded news platforms, your gift will help keep the facts flowing freely.