Wednesday Word of the Week: March 23

23 Mar

Bargaining, not bullying

This week’s word is: BARGAINING

the negotiation of the terms of a transaction or agreement – WordNet

Anyone who doubts the cynical political motives of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his ilk should be required to recite that definition 100 times. Walker (and other Republican Governors like him in thought but so far unlike him in success) maintains that public sector unions are so powerful that they run roughshod over state budgets. He and the Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate created the union-busting bill pretending that it was necessary as a way to balance the state’s budget. The core of the bill eliminates or restricts collective bargaining activities for public sector employees.

Before the odious bill was rammed through in a manner so dubious that a judge has already halted its implementation, working conditions for public sector employees in Wisconsin (and Indiana, and Ohio, and teachers in Idaho) were mostly governed by a collective bargaining agreement.

COLLECTIVE

involving all the members of a group – Macmillan Dictionary Online

BARGAINING

the negotiation of the terms of a transaction or agreement – WordNet

AGREEMENT

a decision about what to do, made by two or more people, groups, or organizations – Macmillan Dictionary Online

That’s right, according to Wisconsin Republicans, unions held all the cards because of a process that involved all parties to the negotiation. A process of negotiation. A process resulting in a decision made by all the parties together. The very definitions of these words put the lie to Walker’s claims.

If the public employees’ unions were being so unreasonable that the budget was truly at risk, then they would be hindering the negotiations. The state has the power to call an impasse and set its terms. If the unions don’t agree, they can strike. That’s what collective bargaining is all about. If Walker were interested in setting a hard line for what the actual budget could sustain, this is the course he would take. Instead, the bill clearly nullifies all three of these concepts neutering the workers’ ability to have any direct control over their working environment.

So if these anti-union actions aren’t about balancing the budget, what are they about? The answer is simple and chilling. These bills are all about political and commercial power. Walker and his nasty brethren are part of the wave of tea that stained America last fall. Funded by the likes of Karl Rove and the Koch brothers, these politicians are interested in shifting the already imbalanced investment in political campaigns even further to the Right. By crippling unions, which traditionally donate just Left of center, a major funding source for Democrats dries up. Scott Walker is willing to scuttle fair labor practices and reasonable benefits for thousands of workers just to make sure he can get re-elected.

Fortunately, America seems to be jolted out of its recent complacency by this mad power grab. Democrats and union leaders are joining forces to recall Republican senators in Wisconsin and shift the power in that state a bit out of Walker’s hands. So far, those efforts look promising. Governors and Legislatures across the country are watching to see what the backlash will be. Let us hope that it will be serious and sustained.

As Billy Bragg reminds us, there is power in a union. Without a formal agreement, negotiations mean nothing, as the British coal miners learned in the 1960s. Collective bargaining leverages the work of few to benefit many. In an age of increasing corporate greed and a shrinking middle class, we must rise up together and shame those who would silence us. With perseverance, the workers can insist on their rights. We can punish politicians who strike deals and pass bills to harm us.

Let’s hope that the recalls in Wisconsin work out for the people, not the politicians, and that a few Republican state senators suddenly find themselves practicing another kind of bargaining altogether.

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