Is the U.S. ready to follow Gov. Walker’s plans to rein in public employee unions?
Wisconsin Gov. (and Republican presidential candidate) Scott Walker has proposed a variety of union restrictions, including:
–Eliminating unions for employees of the federal government and halting the ability of federal workers to collectively bargain,
–Requiring that all workplaces be right-to-work, unless individual states vote otherwise,
–Dismantling the National Labor Relations Board, and
–Raising the bar on unions’ ability to organize.
Walker’s national reputation blossomed in 2011, when just six weeks after taking office as governor, he pushed to end collective bargaining for most public workers in Wisconsin. The governor pushed through the 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 law, in spite of sizable protests. Walker’s current proposal is somewhat similar to provisions in the 2011 law.
“Forbidding federal employees from having their union dues voluntarily deducted from their paychecks, as Scott Walker has promised to do if elected president, is a blatant political attack on federal employees and an attempt to wipe labor unions off the map,” says American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) National President J. David Cox.
Cox tells GPN that unions do not make political contributions to federal candidates from union dues. “Union dues are used for negotiating with management on better working conditions, protecting employees from discrimination and retaliation in the workplace, and educating lawmakers and congressional staff from both sides of the aisle on issues of vital importance to employees.”
Cox describes Gov. Walker as “a man who dismantled union protections for public employees in Wisconsin, and recently compared fighting the unions to fighting terrorists.” Cox adds: “Workers in this country fought long and hard for basic rights and protections at the job site that folks like Scott Walker are determined to take away.”
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union representing 670,000 federal and D.C. government workers nationwide and overseas.
Times change. “The economic prospects are just dramatically changed [from] when Walker was battling public sector unions in Wisconsin in 2010, 2011,” says Jake Rosenfeld, a labor researcher and sociologist at Washington University in St. Louis. Rosenfeld notes that back in the day, the U.S had high unemployment. “Gov. Walker was able to capitalize on the economic anxiety by scapegoating public sector workers, and he did so pretty effectively.“
Rosenfeld tells GPN that it may be time to give government workers some fiscal relief. “We are half-a-decade past the worst of the Great Recession, and during that period many public sector workers have experienced wage freezes and tepid hiring. To the extent that local and state government coffers have refilled, many public sector workers are overdue for a raise.”
Rosenfeld is the author of a recent book from Harvard University Press, “What Unions No Longer Do.” It examines the decline of organized labor and the impact that trend has on a range of workplace issues. The issues include income inequality, wage stagnation and declining prospects for American workers and families.
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