Attacking Unions Through Budget Fights

In yesterday’s Steven Greenhouse article on attacks on unions at the state level in the New York Times, there’s a great passage about how the right is trying to undercut unions through budget crises.

Some union leaders say that proposals like right-to-work laws, which have little effect on state budgets, show that Republicans are using budget woes as a pretext to undercut unions.

“They’re throwing the kitchen sink at us,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “We’re seeing people use the budget crisis to make every attempt to roll back workers’ voices and any ability of workers to join collectively in any way whatsoever.”

Yves Smith makes the point very succinctly:

Notice the effort to use the push against public unions to break the remaining private sector ones.

Attacks on public workers through public budgets pave the way towards not only cuts in worker benefits whose maintenance is crucial to job growth and economic growth – pensions, healthcare, job security, wages – but also paves the way for austerity measures inflicted on unorganized workers. Additionally, the move towards right to work for less laws ensures that, again, it will be harder for workers to lift themselves up and make more money. Wealth will stay with the wealthy and large corporations and will not be flowing into state and federal government coffers. On the flip side, if private sector workers have higher wages, they will be paying more in taxes and help fix budget shortfalls at the state levels.

There is a squeeze being put on by conservatives, for the benefit of the wealthy and corporations, at the expensive of unionized and non-unionized workers alike. The result is likely going to be a loss of public services, a reduction in the size and strength of the social safety net, and the further destruction of the labor movement. Recognizing that this is what is happening in the context of public worker collective bargaining fights and right to work fights is critical to understanding how to stop it from happening. Even if you don’t support the revitalization of the labor movement, understanding the goals of what corporations and conservatives are fighting for now should make clear that the economy cannot and will not recover if austerity and union-busting win out.

The other key piece that needs to be responded to is the core use of jealousy as a motivating factor for drumming up public discontent towards public workers specifically and unionized workers broadly. I don’t know the answer to stopping non-unionized working class people from being jealous of the successes their neighbors have earned through joining a union. At the most basic level, wouldn’t we all be better served to share each others aspirations rather than pull each other down to our lowest possible level? How this is conveyed will be a challenge for labor and pro-labor progressives…and it must be done in the face of a massive PR campaign by the right to drive people to hate their neighbors.

One thought on “Attacking Unions Through Budget Fights

  1. This is yet another example of the unrelenting class warfare that has been waged against working people since the Reagan administration, whether in the form of direct attacks against unions (public and private), the reduction in the size and quality of the social “safety net” and the reduction of taxes of the wealthy and corporations. While the Republican Party has led the charge, they are in no small part aided and abetted by the Blue Dog and centrist Democracts and the mass media. Any one who attempts to point out the fact of this assault is labelled a socialist or a communist and accused of promoting class warfare. The unions better get their heads on straight and tell it like it is or they will disappear.


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