Monday, February 28, 2011

Even a Win is a Loss

Michael Cooper and Steven Greenhouse make an excellent point in their coverage of the union protests in Wisconsin and Ohio--that the radical language of the Tea Party has forced unions to give up on every economic demand in order to defend collective bargaining. Even if the unions win the struggle to keep that fundamental right, they have still lost big time in their members' pocketbooks.

At the best, the Koch Brothers and friends will have continued the slow and steady decline of unions into irrelevance. That is, unless the unions build upon this to retake America, convince people of the necessity of collective bargaining, a more fair system of taxation, and the rejection of extremist rhetoric. And that might happen--the longer these protests continue, the more people will use them as springboards for the long-term organizing infrastructure that the movement so desperately needs.

The other thing I hope the unions are ready to do is to take their protests to the next level if Walker and Kasich get their union-busting legislation passed: strike. If teachers aren't valued, they ought to walk on en masse. Let Walker fire them all. Where are they going to get new ones? If the public sectors unions strike, it will cripple the state. Whether the public support exists to support the strike is an open question, but there's no way these workers are replaceable and besides, if you are going to go down, it's better to go down swinging than slowly wither away.

But even if all this happens, it's almost impossible to see workers coming out of Wisconsin and Ohio with their paychecks intact. And that's still a victory for the conservatives.