Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Welcome to the Bottom - the Politics of Union Busting and the Responsibility of Middle Class Parents

Contributed by Rick Nelson
What Message are Parents Sending Now?

One of the roles of a parent is to teach your child how to improve themselves and their lives as they grow up.  I, for one, tried to teach my daughters that you must try hard, because nothing is given to you, and that improvement and betterment take work.

 But the adults involved in the current political debate surrounding unions are delivering a startlingly different message to their children. Instead of teaching that betterment requires hard work, children are learning that hard work does not matter at all. What matters is that no one else is receiving better benefits than you are. Union members are among the few middle class workers who still have access to affordable health care and pension benefits. Instead of asking why other jobs fail to provide these benefits people are trying to snatch them away from those who still have them.

Is this just a matter of "Do as I say, not as I do"?  I am saddened by the apparent mixed messages of "work hard to better yourself and your position" and "if someone else has access to something better you should eliminate that access."  Why aren't these parents teaching their children that they should fight to have equal access to the benefits enjoyed by union members?  Children are confused enough about life already, sending mixed messages of this nature is not at all helpful.

On Your Mark, Get Set, GO!

The way I see it, what is really happening is a race to the bottom.  People see the benefits enjoyed by others and, instead of working to have the benefits themselves, they are simply trying to bring their unionized counterparts down.  They holler that (unionized) public employees should not be enjoying such "luxurious" benefits at the expense of the tax payer.  Have they forgotten that these same public employees are themselves tax payers?  They are essentially paying their own wages.

Instead of asking "why should they?" people should be asking "why shouldn't we?"  We should be uniting together to preserve the middle class, not helping the corporate big wigs and their political puppets eliminate the benefits enjoyed by a fortunate few. You would spend the same amount of energy and you just may improve your own access to affordable healthcare and retirement plans. Perhaps whining, bashing and dragging others down with you is more appealing but in the end you're not actually helping yourself.  If the middle class does not start standing up for themselves and does not allow organized political forces (i.e. unions) do it for them, how are we going to preserve the middle class?  You cannot be a door mat unless you lie down.

Unions have brought value to everyone's lives.  They brought you the weekend and the 8 hour work day.  They allowed workers to unite and forced employers to recognize the value of their workers.  They forced employers to ensure the health and viability of their workforce instead of treating them like another cog in the corporate machine that, once worn, would simply have to be replaced.

If we continue to strip unions of their ability to bargain the end result will not be a balanced budget or improved working conditions for everyone else.  Instead, we will once again become cogs in a machine beyond our ken.  Unions are not the enemy.  Collective Bargaining Agreements are precisely that - bargained for agreements.  Employers and unions sit down together and establish what will and will not be part of an employment agreement.  It is disingenuous to suggest that unions are somehow finagling employers into acting in a way they did not agree to.  This is about people's lives, the lives and well being of their families, and the health of our society as a whole - not about improving the bottom line of those who are already at the top.

Parents need to teach their children that hard work and collective effort can improve the lives of everyone.  "We are all better off when we are ALL better off."  If we do not change our tone and work together it will only be a matter of time until we hear "Welcome to the Bottom."

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