A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bipartisan union-busting despite popular support for labor

Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., Oct. 15, 16 or 17

When a Democratic governor recently jumped on the union-busting bandwagon, it not only reinforced everyday Americans’ faith that boneheads come from all political parties. It also conjured the cautionary words of that great social commentator Chuck Berry, who sang, “Well, early in the morning I'm a-giving you a warning, don't you step on my blue suede shoes. Hey, diddle diddle, I'm a play my fiddle. Ain't got nothing to lose: Roll over Beethoven, tell Tchaikovsky the news.”

Bear with me.

The latest instance of a governor attacking organized labor is Connecticut’s Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, who started bargaining with that state’s American Association of University Professors by hiring the union-busting law firm McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter – tied to Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) – for a quarter of a million dollars and by proposing onerous concessions limiting AAUP’s member communications, cutting all funding for required research, gutting job security, and imposing a discredited evaluation system.

Malloy – who drew union support in his re-election last year by proclaiming himself to be a “friend of labor” – has taken up anti-worker tactics used by Republican governors Bruce Rauner of Illinois and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and by Democratic embarrassment Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York.

As in Illinois, Wisconsin and New York, workers everywhere – especially public employees – should be alarmed.

However, Malloy himself should be worried, too.

Someone hasn’t told him the news.

Research this spring showed that 48 percent of Americans viewed unions favorably (compared with 39 percent who didn’t), and favorable opinions about labor are rising substantially – despite the ongoing political attacks by Rauner, Walker and their ilk, plus Republican presidential candidates.

The Pew Research Center spring survey shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans favor unionization for all sectors of the economy, including public employees, the target of such governors and also lawsuits scheduled to be heard this term by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The lowest public support for unionization is for fast-food workers, incidentally, but even there, 62 percent believe those workers should be allowed to form unions.

Further, a more recent poll by Gallup shows an even bigger increase in popular support for labor unions, with 58 percent approving of unions and only 36 percent disapproving, in polling from August.

Also, according to the Pew research, 55 percent of people age 18-29 view unions favorably, compared with only 29 percent who view them unfavorably. That means that young people back unions, including Millennials who can be conservative on political issues.

This resurgence for labor among young Americans makes sense because they “have grown up during a massive recession and watched wages associated with middle-class jobs of yesteryear drop precipitously,” wrote Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig in The New Republic. “Unions might be the most promising way to assure that working-class people get a shot at turning their jobs into livable occupations.”

Ken Allen, an international vice president with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said, “People are fed up. They're working hard and not getting ahead.

“They're watching as their children grow up to enter an economy where the stable, middle-class career seems like a distant memory,” he continued. “And they're starting to connect the dots between union membership and good jobs.”

Despite a challenging climate in the courts and in bargaining with public employers, such as Illinois – where AFSCME is working on an extended contract that expired this summer – state workers, teachers, fire fighters and other government employees – are persevering.

“Public-sector unions haven’t been sitting passively by as the judicial juggernaut approaches,” reported Lydia DePillis in the Washington Post. “Rather, they’ve embarked on a broad ‘internal organizing’ effort, reaching workers who may have been paying agency fees for years and never had any contact with a union representative.”

The 58-percent approval rating is the highest Gallup’s reported in seven years.

Again, to Malloy, Rauner and the rest: We’re giving you a warning. We “ain't got nothing to lose” so roll over Beethoven, tell Tchaikovsky the news:

Americans support unions.

[PICTURED: Graphic from United Food & Commercial Workers.]

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