Monday, February 24, 2014


I meant to write yesterday about this New York Times article,which describes how effective Scott Walker's nasty anti-union efforts have been in Wisconsin:
[Act 10] bars public-sector unions from bargaining over pensions, health coverage, safety, hours, sick leave or vacations. All they can negotiate is base pay, and even that is limited: any raises they win cannot exceed inflation....

Act 10 ... has generally required public employees to start contributing 6 percent of their pay toward their pensions and at least 12 percent of their health plan costs. For many employees, that meant a 12 percent pay cut; on top of that, many faced a multiyear pay freeze.

The law repealed a so-called fair-share requirement that all public employees represented by a union pay union fees, and many employees are opting out. At [AFSCME Local 1], most workers stopped paying dues and dropped their membership, ... because the law had squeezed their take-home pay and limited how much the union could help them....

Even the process of collecting dues is more cumbersome because the law bars government officials from deducting union dues from paychecks. Now unions must make individual arrangements with each member to collect dues.

"There are all sorts of brier patches in the law," Mr. Beil said.

For unions, an especially troublesome provision requires an annual "recertification" vote for every local that hopes to retain the ability to bargain collectively, albeit only over base pay. To win, a union needs not just a majority of those who vote, but a majority of all eligible to vote -- a far steeper hurdle.

"The unions are fighting for their lives," said Charles E. Carlson, a consultant to Wisconsin's public employers for 40 years....
So unionized workers lose money (which they now blame on the unions themselves), and unions are weakened as well.

I read this back to back with last week's New Republic article about the crushing student loan debt faced by young college grads and how it's preventing those young people from forming households of their own, buying homes and cars, and generally participating in the consumer economy -- to the detriment of the economy as a whole. It's all a reminder that the rich, who are just fine with the economy as it is right now, apparently don't want the American middle class to be restored to health. The rich will just sell to the rich, and to the rising middle classes in countries like China and India. If the economy is full of teachers on food stamps and Ph.D.s working as baristas, with a permanent decline in workforce participation because employers won't employ more people even as they're sitting on piles of cash, that's just fine with the rich, probably forever. (Though they'll keep chipping away at those food stamps.)

Rich Republicans, in particular, really want to destroy unions in America -- and I mean completely destroy them. And they're on their way. The results in Wisconsin inspire other governors and legislatures to pass similar restraints on public-sector unions, as well as right-to-work laws that cover all unions. (This in addition to what just happened in that Volkswagen vote in Tennessee.)

And Scott Walker may be facing scandal, but his reelections polls just before that scandal broke showed him with a comfortable lead. So it's believed on the right that you can bust unions and get away with it.

One more thing: as Rachel Maddow has noted, the right thinks unions need to be destroyed because unions are the biggest source of Democratic Party funding. While all sorts of people are expecting the Republican Party to die because it doesn't appeal to immigrants or the young, it seems to me that it's the Democratic Party that could die first. Unions need to be saved, but it may be too late, and in the meantime, Democrats really need to look for a new funding stream, because the cash flowing to the GOP is increasingly without limit. (Pretty soon, the Roberts Court will almost certainly allow roll back limits on donations directly to campaigns -- Citizens United involved limits of donations to independent groups.)

And what BooMan says about young people's student debt struggles is also true with regard to the declining middle class:
Addressing this is the project for the left, and if the Democratic Party doesn't take the lead, then tremendous damage will be done to the party, and probably the left as a whole.

... if the left doesn't proactively address their concerns, there could be a reactionary response.
Right. Not only with the party be financially weakened by the crushing of unions, but a generation that never gets off the ground economically will turn away from progressivism, and older heartlanders who continue struggling fruitlessly to get into the middle class will forget that the Democratic Party ever stood for the interests of ordinary people.

At that point, ordinary people will be susceptible to a right-wing movement that blames economic woes on some scapegoat -- immigrants or gays or non-Christians or cultural elitists. Such a movement could be just be old-school divide-and-conquer conservatism or it could be out-and-out fascist. Long term, is it really crazy to worry about the latter if we have a political system that utterly fails to deliver for the vast majority of people for decades?


Anonymous said...

From the NY Times article you link to: "The police and the firefighters, who were exempted from Act 10’s restrictions on collective bargaining, make up most of the remaining union members."

I don't recall Governor Walker's explanation for this exemption.

N Garrett said...

Outstanding post...
The Dems better wake up because the Cons are organized, motivated and Funded ON MULTIPLE FRONTS to destroy True Democracy as we know it.

Its not enough to be just right anymore as the media really isn't interested

Dems need to harness the power of under classes to turn the tide the only way that remains and that is to get out the vote in such overwhelming numbers that the GOP tide can be turned back.

Victor said...

Our choice is limited:
Either another Revolution - more like the French, Russian, Chinese, and Cuban ones - or Fascism.

Start building tumbrels folks.

Grung_e_Gene said...

The Rich have no need for a Middle Class. The Middle Class is to whimsical in its' voting patterns and the Rich don't want to support a Social Safety Net because they have enough for themselves. Also they have no need for Public Infrastructure because they have been setting themselves up to be little self-sufficient fiefdoms for decades.

What the Rich want is a return to Feudalism, with little local barons under control of their slice of America while the Big Federal Government works to enforce the trade while opening up foreign markets with the military and quelling domestic dissent and suppressing the working class.

Dark Avenger said...

with little local barons under control of their slice of America

AKA Southern American regional gubmint.

Anonymous said...

The middle class was only ever tolerated and allowed to exist because the rich needed skilled labor and were attached to the same energy and public services grid as the rest of us.

Robotics, AI, 3d printing, organ printing, and renewable energy are obliterating all of that. At this point there is no positive in a middle class, and it's not needed. It's just a waste of resources and a pain in the ass for the powers that be.

The middle class is going away, end of story. The only real question is if the fate of the 99% is mass starvation or simply a life that's permanent shit.

The left has ruled out violent revolt, so effectively they have no input on what direction things will take. If there is a populist revolt it's going to be right wing, and right wing conservatism will be the dominant factor and voice of the masses.

It's over.

Victor said...

Geese, I, for one, won't go quietly into that dark, dark night.

I will rail against it.

I'll kill some rich MFer, and spend the rest of my life in a prison where they give you "3 hots and a cot" - or did, until we privatized our prisons.

I'd prefer that to bum-fighting some other poor schmuck for the refrigerator box under the overpass.

Paul said...

This post is so heavy, and so very true. We are becoming a nation of serfs in servitude to the 1%. What kid (or family, for that matter) graduates without crushing debt? We have abandoned a generation, and the Democratic Party has not fought as it should have. My guess is they blame the party that didn't stop the bleeding, rather than the one that actually ran the knife up their abdomens.