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      I’ve been reading UltraSociety, by Peter Turchin. Turchin’s a biologist turned to mathematical models of human society, and he’s done interesting work, not all of which I agree with (or agree is quite as radical as he claims.) But one of the points he makes in UltraSociety, which has been made by many archeologists and […]
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Tuesday: Wisconsin has more cows than people

Or so the NYTimes would have us believe. This comment is from clueless Wisconsinite in the NYTimes:

But others suggested that unions had perhaps had outlived their usefulness. Carrie Fox, who works at a billboard advertising company, said she hoped that the battle would encourage other governors to rein in public- and private-sector unions.

“I know there was a point for unions back in the day because people were being abused,” she said. “But now there’s workers’ rights; there’s laws that protect us.”

Riiiigghht.  Protect us from WHAT, exactly?  If you can casually sweep away the promises you made to your workers who negotiated in good faith, what real rights does a worker have anymore?

I get pissed off by stupid comments like this.  What’s worse?  That Wisconsinites don’t seem to realize that what unions do has a trickle down effect on nonunion workers or that media sources like the NYTimes provide so many quotes from these dunderheads?  I mean, do we really need more ignorance cluttering up our media?

Where is the labor leadership in Wisconsin making the point that it’s not that public service unions have it so great with salaries and benefits.  It’s that we ALL should be getting the same benefits they do.  Where’s the argument that during this Greaf Recession, you really don’t want to diminish the buying power or increase the financial insecurity of one of largest employment blocs.  Because when teachers and prothonotaries and DMV clerks have less money to spend, that means small businesses get fewer customers.  It affects everyone, from the day care center workers to the waitress, to the piano teacher.  Everything but necessities becomes a luxury.

Yep, there definitely are things the unions should negotiate on.  As a board of ed member in NJ, I got the feeling that teachers got tenure way too early, recieved incrementals and promotional raises without a lot of proof that they had earned them and in some cases, could retire with a stash of unused vacation and sick days that needed to be paid by the district a very high cost.  It was also nearly impossible to fire a teacher who may have engaged in illegal sexual activity with his students.  Union grievance rules required a lengthy process, ususally resulting in a large financial payoff to make the teacher go away.  So, there is definitely room for improvement and teachers and other private section unions should be willing to examine whether some of their rules gives their public relations image a black eye.

But renegotiation is not the same as breaking the ability of the unions to negotiate at all.  Do we really want to go back to the days when teachers worked for subsistence wages, had no benefits and could be fired at will for lifestyles choices that are none of the public’s business?  Will premarital sex be used a reason in some rural Wisconsin district as the means to get rid of a female teacher?  How does Wisconsin plan to prevent that?

And what happens to the students of those teachers?  What happens to the quality of the instruction when the worker feels unappreciated?  I mean, have been on a United Airlines flight in the past ten years?  The flight attendants that are left the most senior ones and they look like they’ve lost their mojo.  If you like your job, you should have mojo in ample supply.  But when your airlines slashes your pay, pares down the staff to skeleton crews and starts tinkering with the pensions, you get a lot of very beaten down flight attendants whose tight little smiles can’t disguise the sadness in their eyes.  They’re going to have to make transcontinental flights until they die.  My guess is that you get what you pay for.  Happy flight attendants of any age make a flight more enjoyable and make that obstacle course in security worth the effort.

But the cows, er, clueless Wisconsinites think the workers are protected.  And the media have workers focussed on each other instead of the people up the food chain who are sitting back in their limos, chuckling at the carnage they are observing but do not feel compelled to join.  If you make a lot of money in Wisconsin, or NJ or Ohio or any number of states that are hurting financially, it’s perfectly ok to stay above the fray.  No one is asking you to make a sacrifice.

Yet.

If they cows ever got a clue, they’d realize they don’t have to sacrifice their neighbor’s financial  well being or their children’s education.  All they have to do is start looking up the food chain instead of down.  Zero in on those wealthy with the tax cuts who are stashing money in the bank.  Money they might have used to give you a raise and better bennies.  And as Paul Krugman said last week, get all Willie Sutton on them.  Why should states tax the rich?  Because that’s where the money is.

If children end up going to bed hungry, it’s because the rich are holding out on them.  Don’t blame the unions, cows.

You’ve been eating grass.

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