Wisconsin GOP's creative destruction set to proceed with "right to work for less" nonsense | Wis.Community

Wisconsin GOP's creative destruction set to proceed with "right to work for less" nonsense

So Republicans have dropped another bomb on Wisconsin. The first was when newly elected Gov. Scott Walker suddenly announced in 2011 that he would pursue a measure to grab back hundreds of millions of dollars in public worker compensation while enfeebling most public employee unions in the state. Now it's the turn of State Rep. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), who recently told the Associated Press that he expects to introduce a "right to work" bill.

This has been coming along ever since, in an unguarded moment, Walker was caught on video assuring billionaire businesswoman Diane Hendricks that her dream of Wisconsin as a right-to-work state only had to await his “divide and conquer” strategy. Now that it's clear Republicans will consider enacting such backward, noxious legislation, let's revisit the big, stinking, noxious hypocrisy underlying this particular GOP goal.

Republicans like Kapenga say workers in unionized shops should by law be free to opt out of union membership and from any obligation to pay union dues or a fair share equivalent of dues, even though a majority of their fellow workers have voted for that. Conservatives call this "right to work," but progressives call it "right to work for less," because it tends to destroy unions and lead to lower wage structures. See that graphic up there for more detail, and a link below to a DailyKos piece by Wisconsin blogger Jake formerly of the LP. 

Here's the hypocritical part: When nearly half of us vote against Scott Walker and other victorious Republicans, they promptly operate under the assumption they have a total mandate that encompasses ALL of us, regardless of our respective views, and regardless of whether their agenda hurts some of us.

Our fair-share "dues" in the GOP's case are the social and economic costs of GOP decisions that affect us. That includes legislation we oppose because -- far short of benefiting us as in the case of union contracts -- such legislation often tasks us. Yet compared to "right to work" limits imposed on unions, there's no comparable right under which voters may opt out of Republican rule and the imputed costs to many of us. All the GOP needs is a bare majority, and at once it gets busy selectively providing benefits to a relatively small group of big supporters, at the expense of the larger electorate.

[Bear in mind that while Republicans are very driven in exercising power and imposing their preferences, they often also make threatening noises about the supposedly imperial rule of opposing lawmakers, on up to in some cases talking about armed revolution. That's one heck of a psychological projection and situational ethic. So much for those vaunted GOP "principles," which they seem to apply quite selectively.]

Compare the above examples and what you have is an increasingly disparate and selective democracy, where, as Orwell put it, all animals are equal but some animals are treated as more equal than others. The only issue is whether the less equal animals are made aware of their actual situation. You won't, of course, find such information coming from Republicans, who gain politically by obfuscating their agenda, creating PR labels that are attractive but wholly non-descriptive It's analogous to those TV ads that sell prescription drugs via dreamy pictures and soothing promises, but without all the FDA warnings about nasty side effects.

Political scientists have long since documented democracy's tendency toward a tyranny of the majority. Obviously, the Republican Party views its own, current hegemony as totally justifiable -- one that it thinks should be expanded still farther. Meanwhile, however, the GOP regards the illusory hegemony of those supposedly all-powerful labor unions (who, in actuality, only have a mere right to sit across a table and seek a deal with management) as not in the least bit justifiable.

In other words: one low standard for Republicans and their pals, but a much higher, harder to leap standard for everyone else.

And here's one more low standard for Republicans: As in the case of Act 10, when Walker and the GOP legislature exempted public employee unions with a history of supporting Republicans, State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald now suggests that an anti-union, right-to-work law could exempt private-sector unions that have -- you guessed it -- supported Republicans with campaign contributions. Not that this should be considered political, Fitzgerald added. Righhhhhht. See link below for more on that and other egregiousness from our state's wing-nut political hegemony.

Some further background:

In establishing themselves, both public and private labor unions always had to hold a vote of workers asking if the a particular union should become the designated bargaining unit for everyone in a particular shop. Wherever a majority of voting workers agreed, unions gained a mandate to represent all such workers.

Unions generally had the right to collect fair-share payments from anyone in the bargaining unit who didn't become a member and who would thus not contribute to the cost of bargaining (contrary to what conservatives would have you believe, political spending by labor unions does not come out of member dues).

The overall arrangement was a clear example of democracy in action: An election. A majority decision. Benefits for everybody but accountability, as well.

Yet according to conservatives, such arrangements are bad because a minority of workers are being forced to do something they'd rather not do, even if it's good for them. So Republicans pushed pernicious "right to work" laws in other, mostly southern states, imposing a system where individual workers who do not support the union don't have to pay a fair-share contribution but nevertheless benefit from the union's efforts.

In short, Republicans want them to be able to get something for nothing.

Not very much in line with the capitalist model, but hey, who's paying close attention? Only those same Republicans who in most other situations (not including sweetheart business deals) posture vigorously against handouts.

But, anyway, that's all window dressing. The real GOP intent, to put it simply, is to destroy unions by destroying the economic model of a member-based organization. It is like banning a business from requiring its customers to actually help cover the cost of services they willingly receive. The GOP method of achieving this is by giving a free ride to people who don't want to chip in to pay for the gas. It's welfare.

The bigger insult comes when workers do the math and increasingly avail themselves of "right to work" by opting out of union membership. Conservatives promptly declare that this proves unions are unpopular. Rather, it proves that economically neutered unions forced to negotiate without sufficient resources are unpopular among workers who earn less because the union has been weakened. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. A stacked deck. A poisoned well. A "let's you and him fight" ploy. A win-win arrangement deliberately turned into a fail-fail. All for the intended benefit of overly greedy management, the imperious GOP and its fat-cat benefactors.

Organized labor has been the chief fulcrum against poor employer practices and underwhelming wages. Weakening unions strengthens the GOP at the polls, not because the party has really done any worker a favor (quite the opposite) but because "right to work" laws, along with Walker's Act 10 law busting public employee unions here in Wisconsin, neutralizes a potential GOP political opponent. Yes, they'd whack your pay to get you to hate unions and drop your membership. In fact, they did just that for public employees, and now, apparently, it's on to the rest of you in the private sector.

 If you hate organized labor, you'll love what the Wisconsin GOP considers doing next. But only a handful among us will love how it all actually turns out, and they'll be laughing all the way to the bank with bags full of what should be some of our earnings.

Published

December 4, 2014 - 12:13pm

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