Thursday, February 17, 2011

The union label

The evidence is mounting: The US Republican Party is waging an ideological and class war against mainstream America. Sound extreme? It isn’t—it’s accurate, and is true largely because the Republican Party has moved so far to the extreme right. Nothing shows this more plainly than their attacks on union workers.

The above video from MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” outlines, in Ed’s typical bombastic style, how Republican governors are waging war against public service unions even, in the case of Wisconsin, threatening to use the state National Guard to put down a labour dispute—how very nineteenth century of him.

The unions that Republicans are attacking are mainly in the public sector, which figures: They’re the only ones they can get to directly, and it’s one of the few sectors of the American workforce with any sizeable level of unionisation.

According to the annual report on union membership published by the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 the rate of union membership for public sector workers was 36.2%, while the rate for private sector workers was a measly 6.9 percent.

Overall, the statistics show the pitiful state of unionisation in the US. In 2010, the percentage of all wage and salary workers who were members of a union was 11.9%—down from 12.3% the year before. In 1983, the first year for which the BLS has comparable figures, the union membership rate was 20.1%.

So, with rates of union membership so low and declining, one wonders how Republicans can keep a straight face as they label union workers as a major cause of America’s economic problems. They’re either playing Americans for fools or they don’t know facts and reality, and neither prospect is very appealing.

But there’s also this: The statistics show that black workers were more likely to be union members than workers who were white, Asian or Hispanic. I believe the Republican attack dogs are well aware of that fact, and also that—according to actuarial tables—for many lower-level African-American workers, raising the retirement age will mean they will die before they can retire. Do Republicans believe, as John Boehner might put it, “so be it”?

So far, only my home state of Illinois has done the responsible thing and approached their budget problems like grown ups. They raised income and corporate taxes by modest amounts—tax rates are still lower than in neighbouring Wisconsin and Iowa. Illinois will be cutting its budget, too—but not on the backs of mainstream Illinoisans. This mixed approach is an example other states should follow.

The one thing that makes no sense whatsoever is to go after hard working ordinary Americans. Or is that all the Republican Party is capable of?


Roger Owen Green said...

but the running narrative, from the GOP, and esp from Wisconsin's GOP governor, is that Wisconsin is "friendly" to business, and by contrast, Illinois is not.
not even watching much news lately, but i caught that.

Roger Owen Green said...