today winant takes on criticism of public employee unions:
Not everything public employees’ unions do is great. But state workers are not servants, and making middle-class salaries doesn’t rocket them up to “newly privileged” status, either. They are workers — workers with unique responsibilities, but with rights and dignity nonetheless. For the GOP (and even some Democrats) to turn on them as the featherbedding, dollar-bill-burning villains behind state budget crunches is dishonest and nasty, when the party has consistently blocked any attempt to raise revenue from the actualprivileged class, as well as opposed new stimulus measures at the federal level to take this pressure off states. People on the left wing should speak honestly about issues where union interests are an obstacle, like reforming schools and prisons. But if they don’t honor some obligations to workers, then what good is having a left wing anyway?
like many aspects of american politics, the union problem is presented strictly as an either/or scenario. either you’re a republican and you think the unions are getting paid tons of money to do nothing, or you’re a democrat and the public unions can do no wrong (and/or you fear them).
and sure, it’s easy to point at organizations like muni or the situation in vacaville and make whipping boys out of the unions. but easy isn’t right. have some unions supported questionable politicians and positions that benefit themselves? absolutely. have some people gamed the system to get exorbitant pensions? no doubt. have unions failed to see the bigger picture in an attempt to gain more and more concessions for themselves? of course. but that doesn’t mean that every public employee is a criminal, or is even benefiting from the system.
look: municipalities and states should not allow unions to bully them into wildly unwise fiscal decisions. part of being in charge means making the hard decisions. it means leading. if you absolutely know that this union contract will bankrupt your fucking city inside of five years, then hold the line and weather the strike if you have to. and unions, for their part, need to stop seeing government agencies solely as opponents; we’re all in this together, after all, and if the city goes broke to pay for your concessions, then we’re all fucked.
and then there’s this: the majority of union members are not the ones you see on the news. they’re the ones like me who find the whole union thing kind of ridiculous. mine couldn’t even prevent the furloughs, although they did delay them 4 whole months. union membership doesn’t guarantee a high salary (mine is sad), it doesn’t guarantee a yearly cost-of-living increase, and it doesn’t guarantee that you’re safe from layoffs, wage cuts, and furloughs.
as someone who has made less money for the past two years than i did the year before, while working for the state and belonging to a union, let me tell you this: every time i see some asshat on tv talking about how it’s the unions that are bankrupting us, how state employees are fiddling while the state burns, i just want to punch him in the face. come to my office and tell us we’re not suffering equally, you pompous bastards.
but then again, i suppose expecting common sense from government or politicians is unrealistic.