“Trust, but verify” the words of St. Ronald come back to Wisconsin and it’s public workers. Will this work? Probably not. By ramming through the “quick fix” budget repair bill the Governor is ultimately asking the workers to “trust us to take care of your needs, wages and compensations.” Well I for one would be hesitant to “presume good-will.” There is nothing to “verify” and no recourse for discussion if the “trust me” attitude falls on it’s collective arises. If we believe the economy must serve people not the other way around and people are more important than things; that labor is more important than capital then it seems to me that’s where it should start. Governor Walker doesn’t seem to think this is a good idea let alone does he leave any room for compromise. It seems the workers have already given in to his demands to cut back on compensations but the Governor as yet has not given into demands that the collective bargaining ban be scraped. As he arrogantly says, “I want to be different. I want to be unique. I want to be an innovator here and give my local governments the ability to manage their own budgets. On that part, we can’t compromise.” So in a dangerous financial situation in which the state finds it self, union busting seems is the way to go. The big bad Unions are the culprits. His actions must be viewed in light of the state’s history of championing worker’s rights, don’t you think? The year 2011 will be the 100th anniversary of when Wisconsin became the first state to pass a law guaranteeing workers’ compensation. Wisconsin was a major fighter in the early 19th century for the eight-hour workday and school curriculums include the state’s organized labor history. Unions have been the whipping child for all the ails the economy in recent years. Yet the financial recession we find ourselves trying to dig out of took place a long way from Madison and it involved a number of complex issues namely incomplete financial regulation, and defective corporate governance. We trusted but didn’t verify. Now we look for scapegoats. What easier target than our own public workers bound together in a union.
Catholic social teaching addresses some of these issues of fairness such as “people have the right to economic initiative and private property, but these rights have limits. No one is allowed to amass excessive wealth when others lack the basic necessities of life.” (Rerum Novarum) It’s just good business. Further more, workers have a “right to organize” and to seek redress. That’s a given and a notion we have lost sight of since St. Ronald fired the air traffic controllers in the early ’80’s dismissing their strike as a crime rather than listening to their legitimate concerns. Since that time, his firings have given tacit permission to corporations and other businesses to ship union jobs overseas with impunity toward and disrespect to the American worker. (Sam Walton the founder of WalMart touted “Buy American” in his early stores. We’d be hard-pressed to find anything made in America at WalMart anymore.)
The choice made by the governor of Wisconsin and the legislature of Ohio and others in the name of the “Common Good” is not solely about economic choices (nor is it really for the common good); they are moral choices with enormous human dimensions. The debates over worker representation and collective bargaining are not simply matters of ideology or power, but involve principles of justice, participation and how workers can have a voice in the workplace and economy.
If there ever was a cause for the Tea Party to rally around it is this one. Where is their groundswell of emotion? Or doesn’t the “common good” or “fairness” go much beyond themselves?
and so it goes…