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ERIC Number: EJ969125
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Mar-6
Pages: N/A
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-1931-1362
The Long History of Labor Bashing
Lichtenstein, Nelson
Chronicle of Higher Education, Mar 2011
When he was still President Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, now mayor-elect of Chicago, famously quipped: "Never allow a crisis to go to waste." Republican governors in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Ohio, and other states have certainly taken that advice to heart. By emphasizing, and in some cases manipulating, the red ink flowing through so many state budgets, they have leveraged the crisis to strike a body blow at the public-sector unions that represent so many teachers, professors, social workers, and municipal employees. The collective-bargaining rights of the police and firefighters, often a privileged caste, are also being threatened in some states. Unionists and Democrats denounce this as opportunism, and in Wisconsin they have made the case that there is hardly a fiscal crisis at all, that public-employee wages and pensions are not out of line with those in the private sector, and that collective bargaining works pretty well. Neither the Wisconsin Counties Association nor the League of Wisconsin Municipalities was consulted by Gov. Scott Walker when he drew up the anti-union legislation that he claims is necessary for the solvency of his state's counties, towns, and cities. Nor do officials of either group support the governor's initiative. But, according to Lichtenstein, it would be a mistake to see the contemporary GOP offensive against the unions as some kind of hasty and ill-planned gambit. The author states that Walker's rhetoric and his legislative program reflect and refract a multidecade barrage by conservatives--in politics, academe, think tanks, and corporate management--designed to eviscerate trade unionism so that it will, in effect, simply wither away. Their assault, both ideological and political, has depended neither upon the presence or absence of a fiscal crisis at the state level nor, for that matter, upon the profitability or competitiveness of those American companies threatened by global competition. The collective organization of workers, private or public, stands athwart their vision of how markets should work and the polity should function. Furthermore, Lichtenstein claims that this right-wing critique of trade unionism has often been contradictory and inconsistent. Today trade unions represent only 12 percent of all working Americans, a signal testament to the decline of labor and its liberal allies. But if the opponents of public-sector unionism win their fight in the Rust Belt states, the victory will be more than just another organizational defeat for the unions. It will constitute an ideological triumph for a generation of conservative thinkers and activists who are now too often forgotten.
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; Tel: 202-466-1000; Fax: 202-452-1033; e-mail: circulation@chronicle.com; Web site: http://chronicle.com
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Wisconsin