The people calling themselves ‘conservatives’ are full of glee over what Americans for Prosperity (the same Koch-funded group behind Walker’s assault on workers) is calling the “shot heard around the world” – also known as the Michigan Republicans shoving an ALEC/ Koch funded kill unions bill down the people’s throats in the heart of the American union.
They gloat. It’s what they do. But what they don’t see the long-term impact of what they’re doing.
The unions have been dying for years. The orchestrated ALEC-based hits on collective bargaining in Republican-led states was no doubt meant to be the deathblow.
But instead, it has sparked ongoing debate about the point of unions. Many Americans who never had a reason to think about unions before are now aware of the issue. So while it pains me personally that Republicans did this in my home state, taking aim at all my Grandfather worked for his entire life just weeks after he passed away, I see an opportunity here.
This is the time to talk to your friends and neighbors about why the union was started, what collective bargaining rights have to do with human rights around the globe (collective bargaining is recognized internationally as a basic human right), and how the union isn’t Big Boss, but rather teacher Dad and line-worker Mom and electrican Brother, etc, and how unions actually help the market self-regulate.
Worker-friendly states (those without “right to work” laws) have higher incomes on average and better working conditions. An NEA study concluded, “Eleven of the 15 states with the highest poverty rates are RTW, while nine of the 11 states with the lowest poverty rates are worker-friendly.” If that doesn’t get it, how about a discussion regarding productivity? An analysis of gross domestic product per capita shows that worker friendly states “appear to be significantly ‘more productive’ than the RTW states.” Furthermore, “12 of the 14 most productive states are worker-friendly states, while five of the six least productive states are RTW states. The median GDP per capita for the worker-friendly states is $41,529.50, compared to $38,745.50 in RTW states.”
The premise of unions is very simple. When there are two sides negotiating something, the side with the most power does not have to give. Who has the power in corporate America? The boss. Sometimes the boss is a nice person, sometimes not. But depending upon the benevolence of a person is a fickle business.
Even worse, depending upon the benevolence of an entity with no heart and an obligation to shareholders with no moral core is a fool’s game. Hence, by coming together as a group, workers around the world have found a way to have a seat at the table. They hardly have equal power, and what little power they have is clearly resented by the Elite, but with solidarity comes enough power to matter; enough to bargain for a decent wage and retirement — the things CEOs get (though in much greater amounts seemingly due to their inherent “worthiness”) without question. Retention fees, if you will. Or, as a good businessperson might see it, ways to motivate employees and increase morale and output. In fact, “right-to-work” laws may be a detriment when a business is considering moving to a state:
“Right to work is not high on employers’ things to consider when they move to a state,” Dale Belman, a professor at Michigan State University’s School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, said Thursday. “For existing employers it doesn’t provide a benefit and may be a detriment,” he said, because of worsening labor relations in right-to-work states.
Some businesses are run with the idea that good business means less turnover, and less turnover means treating employees as valued commodity. So, certainly not all corporations are greedy vultures. But by design, the market is supposed to temper their greed with their reputations, among other non-monetary assets. This is why you see conservatives trying to sell the idea that greed is good. If, for example, we stop holding corporations responsible for looting their employees’ pension funds, there is no balancing act to the greed.
It’s ironic, but the modern day conservative movement is not conservative at all. They are rigging the market to have no power to self-regulate, in order to feed the greedy hands of the corporations at the top who stand to benefit from a skewed market.
By destroying the very function of the capitalism they claim to not only stand for, but love, conservatives are tolling their own ideological death bell. It’s not unions that wanted to kill capitalism. Unions are a part of capitalism; they are one of the self-regulating forces that can serve to keep “too-big-to-fail” at bay. They are a check, if you will, on absolute power.
No, it’s not unions that are killing American capitalism. It’s the greedy corporations masquerading as conservatives that are killing capitalism – destroying competition from smarter and leaner mom and pops, rigging the market with government subsidies and bailouts, and killing all measures of self-regulation. The public is slowly waking up to this reality — a fact that will not serve the alleged “conservative” cause well. It’s called backlash, and yes, it requires patience and diligence, but it’s real.
Republicans don’t stand for business. They don’t stand for conservatism. They don’t stand for capitalism. They stand for the greed of corporations who seek absolute power with no free market to regulate them.
Unions are part of the free market. Unions are a global part of freedom. Unions, working as a measure of corporate reputation, are a part of what conservatives claim makes capitalism work — self-regulation. What will the market bear, they ask.
I ask, who is the market? The market is the American people. What will you bear?
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.