Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What Will Replace Collective Bargaining in Wisconsin?

With all of the debate around workers' rights in Wisconsin, surprisingly little attention is being paid to the groups which stand to benefit from the elimination of the organized labor's influence among public sector employees (apart from the value of a market with fewer unions and hence less labor influence).

Make no mistake about it: the legislative process in Wisconsin is an attempt to destroy the influence of public sector workers, by eliminating the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) locals, which provide them with a unique tool to influence their workplaces. Once the annual recalls of the union start (a stipulation of the legislation), it is only a matter of time before the union locals fail to accrue a sufficient number of votes in one cycle, lose their funding and experience fatal insolvency.

Much has been said of the Koch's influence over Walker, and the law as originally proposed (before the allocative-financial clauses were removed), contained a clause to allow no-bid sales of public utilities, an industry the Kochs are heavily invested in:
(1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state.
In fact, it is precisely this no-bid form of market-government relations that is at the heart of the insolvency many state and local governments are faced with - pensions, on the other hand, have chronically ran surpluses in recent years (see Selway & Braun). These "pump and dump" bond schemes were plagued by conflicts-of-interest at the consultancy level and disproportionate profits on the bank's end. How fitting, then, that the primary target of the "deficit hawks" is the one group that actually tried to negotiate with the state, rather than to defraud them.

Collective bargaining agreements are accumulations of employer and worker interests. The overarching themes in these agreements are mutual benefit, stability and negotiations on the rate of labor sold and compensation provided. For this reason, health care and scheduling clauses appear in tandem with no-strike and drug-testing policies. These contracts provide explicit policies and procedures which would otherwise have to be hammered out via trial and error from the top, down. And, as noted on NPR, many state organizations will probably continue to follow most of the collectively-bargained guidelines until other policies are implemented. Which other polices? Undoubtedly, policies and procedures determined by what are sure to be new hires of consultancy firms and managerial bureaucrats.

Already, the libertarians are clamoring for the restriction on the rights of employers to negotiate contracts with unions - hilariously, as "natural rights" of non-union labor using the property of the employer:
These arrangements also require that all future employees agree to work under the terms of the existing collective bargaining agreement.  The 22 states that have enacted “right to work” laws prohibit “union shop” or “agency shop” agreements in labor contracts. ... However, the majority has no right to impose these terms on either their colleagues or their employer. (Mark Friedman)
One might think that collectively bargained agreements were only written by labor representatives, and forced by gunpoint on the employer! The fact is that this represents state imposition of limitations on the employer's right to negotiate their own terms - a fact that seems to go unnoticed when the free market doesn't benefit the employers.

It should come as no surprise that the Koch brothers not only funded Walker's campaign (and Walker seems all too eager to please them -Buffalo Beast), but that the same Koch brothers regularly channel funding to libertarian organizations like CATO and Americans for Prosperity, that tout the above anti-union, anti-free-enterprise line.

The fallout from this legislation will be a new Democratic-Republican paradigm which is far more hostile to labor (yet again!), given the expected decline in political investment that organized labor will be able to offer. Furthermore, we will experience a massive reduction of democracy - both internally, among Wisconsin AFSCME workers, and nationally, by the political realignment against labor and other popular interests touted by labor. Already, however, this reduction of democracy is being touted as a "win for democracy," and only the resident leftist-scapegoat Michael Moore has the audacity to call this hindrance to democracy for what it is.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are appreciated. Offensive comments and spam will be removed.