Friday, November 11, 2011

Donít demonize labor unions

On Tuesday, the labor movement in Ohio won a major victory by defeating attempts by Gov. John Kasich and Republicans in that state's legislature to limit the collective bargaining rights of teachers, police officers, firefighters and state workers.

This victory stands in opposition to the mantra of members of the anti-union right wing that while labor unions may have been necessary sometime in the past, that is no longer true.

Selling a view of unions and their members as unreasonable in their demands and obstructionist in protecting incompetent workers is easy. Caricatures reinforce an image of union workers caring only about more money for less work. They leave out the part about former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's crediting state workers for taking 20 furlough days and accepting pay freezes to help him balance the state's budget.

Unions are about more than worker benefits. Union institutional support gives workers power to benefit consumers as well. The pilot who refuses to fly because of bad weather or the mechanical status of an aircraft inevitably faces intense pressure because of the cost to the company of such a decision. And what about the meat inspector whose job may be threatened if he refuses to look the other way when bad meat is discovered?

Corporate and political forces will continue to demonize unions. It's easier to run any company if employee interests don't have to be part of the equation. At least in Ohio, employees and their unions can now continue to negotiate for themselves.

Turns out, they won one for the health, safety and welfare of the rest of us as well.

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