The Republican-dominated Wisconsin legislature along with the Republican governor, Scott Walker, are on the verge of adopting legislation requiring public sector workers to contribute to their own health care and retirement. The legislation would also strip public sector workers of their right of collective bargaining. In response to this, at least 30,000 pubic sector workers have staged an angry rally in front of the state house. The Tea Party, in response to this, is staging its own rally, which could give rise to a dangerous confrontation.
But if both sides were willing to listen to reason, an unlikely possibility, they would realize how this should play out. With many non-government workers out of jobs and with union workers with jobs paying taxes to support the public sector, there is reason to believe that there is not going to be solidarity on this issue. Taxpayers in general don’t see why public sector workers in a time of fiscal crisis should not be obliged to pay something towards their health care the way everyone else does. The same is true of retirement. The opposition to this is misguided. The sense of entitlement of public sector workers is unjustified in these conditions. And whilst many pubic sector workers are not all that well paid, there are some whose salaries are unconscionable. School administration is one of the biggest offenders, with some on Long Island pulling down $250,000 a year. Suffolk County, Long Island, police earn six-figure salaries with considerable benefits. This has all contributed to the gigantic deficits state and local governments are running, the biggest one actually now in Texas, a state with no income tax.
By the same token, the Tea Party activists have no business opposing collective bargaining. Ayn Rand argued from a libertarian perspective that free association was a fundamental right and that the state has no business prohibiting unions. She also supported the right to strike. She was right. If the basic position of the Tea Party is to get the government off our backs, they cannot justify this totalitarian interference by the state with the fundamental rights of individuals to band together voluntarily. There is a basic contradiction in this that they are unwilling to recognize.
But what if state workers go on strike to force unreasonable demands on the taxpayers who support them? Ronald
Reagan fired the air controllers in such a situation. Anyone who supports unions without reservations should have witnessed a leading teachers’ union official creating a major disturbance at the fanciest restaurant in Albany when he refused to pay his bill because he insisted the portion was too small. Those sitting at the table with him, including some teachers, supported him. This guy is grossly overweight, a living caricature of a union boss.
The Democratic Party is dominated by the pubic sector unions and as such, is supporting the demonstrators in Wisconsin. Similar demonstrations are planned throughout the country. There is justification for this because the right in America has been determined to smash the unions and get rid of the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Employment Practices Act. Not for nothing did Reagan grant amnesty to two and a half million illegal aliens. He did not do this out of the generosity of his heart. These were workers who were prepared to accept much lower wages than organized labor demanded. The twelve million aliens in America are here to do the same thing.
The AFL-CIO is now a shadow of what it was when George Meany wielded power like a potentate and Lane Kirkland ran the Democratic Party for him. The United Auto Workers, one of the most powerful unions in the country, was forced to give up benefits and take lower salaries when the industry collapsed. Because the AFL-CIO supported the Vietnam War, many young Americans saw it as the enemy. When they nominated McGovern and defeated Hubert Humphrey, the hawkish tool of the AFL-CIO, the power of the unions in national politics was emasculated.
There is an important aspect of American labor history that most uncritical supporters of the unions are unaware of. A COVERT LIFE, the journalist Ted Morgan’s biography of Jay Lovestone, ne Jacob Liebstein, should be required reading although it received scant attention when it came out. Lovestone was a founder of the American Communist Party but was personally expelled by Joseph Stalin at a Comintern convention in Moscow because of Stalin’s distrust of him. He escaped from Russia, fearing for his life. Lovestone then organized a group that called themselves the “Lovestonites,” a sort of independent Communist Party of their own. What happened after they disbanded changed the course of labor history. While Lovestone was serving as the head of the AFL-CIO international division, CIA recruited him. James Jesus Angleton, the head of CIA counter-intelligence became his case officer and close friend. The union allowed itself to be used for various CIA operations around the world. In Africa, it supported the Pan African Congress in order to undermine the African National Congress. It was the PAC that organized the demonstrations at Sharpeville that led to the infamous massacre by white police and troops. The demonstrations were supposed to show up the ANC, which had refused to participate.
The strong support of the AFL-CIO for the Vietnam War was an outgrowth of Lovestone’s power as a CIA operative. Many of the anti-war activists ultimately became libertarian entrepreneurs with no use for the unions and with considerable distrust of the state. The libertarian movement in America is pro-capitalist and decidedly anti-war. They have left the unions in the dust. The recent public sector union demonstrations could, like the mineworkers strike in Britain, be their last hurrah.