Rallying support for a national “show of force” planned for April 4th; AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka stated that “April 4 is the day on which Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life for the cause of public collective bargaining”. AFL-CIO officials are also encouraging local union leaders to stress comparisons between the black civil rights struggles of the 60’s and work with churches to incorporate themes supportive of unions into their services. Fresh from a major defeat in Wisconsin union bosses are gearing up to push back across the country and seize the initiative from those seeking to scale back spending on public employee benefits.
I have to wonder about the effectiveness of this strategy. During the civil rights era, blacks were attacked for attempting to vote or sitting at segregating lunch counters. For a time, it was the law in some states that a black passenger would have to give up their seat on a public bus for a white passenger. This was a sad and shameful time in our history and we as a nation and a people have made great strides in a relatively short time. Does the AFL-CIO really intend to compare white middle aged public employees, many with pay and benefits far outstripping their private sector counterparts, to blacks who suffered so much in the Jim Crow era south?
This kind of hyperbole is ridiculous enough to border on the offensive. The debate in Wisconsin was over public employees contributing 10% to their pensions when the private sector average is around 23%. Public employee unions have the power and the money to bankroll the elections of the very same politicians who will be negotiating their pay and benefits. Not to put too fine a point on it, during the civil rights era, many blacks were being persecuted by the “establishment”; public employee unions on the other hand represent the establishment. An establishment that is bleeding dry the very people and taxpayers who finance their “Cadillac” benefit plans.
I expect those on the left, including black leaders who may take issue with the civil rights comparison, will close ranks with the AFL-CIO. The mutually supportive relationship between leftists necessitates it. This is not about the teachers or the employees or even the rights of workers. This is about the power of the leftist establishment. Those are not my words; those words were spoken by a former official of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teacher’s union. He was arguing that as far as he is concerned the goal of the NEA is not improve schools or help students, the goal of the NEA is to collect dues and increase their power. He was advocating this as a good thing.
In New Jersey, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana; leaders like Chris Christie, R-NJ, Scott Walker, R-WI, and John Kasich are putting their state’s fiscal houses in order in part by reigning in lavish public employee benefits. While those on the left attack “mean-spirited” and cold hearted Republicans, they offer no other solution to help solve the fiscal crises in which we now find ourselves. Ironically, the lefty Huffington Post is itself embroiled in a labor dispute with its own contributors. I cannot speak to the situation over at HuffPo, but I do understand that as far as our state and federal governments are concerned, the well has run dry and austerity budgets are our only option.