The trade unions’ uncertain future

This week’s positive news must be that a deal is on its way to prevent the federal government’s shutdown on 4 March. The settlement, however, is temporary and only postpones the decision for two weeks before a new decision is necessary to raise the debt ceiling, thereby allowing the government to borrow more money.
The expected compromise includes budget cuts of four billion dollars, about which there are now intensive negotiations between the White House and both political parties in Congress.
This week’s negative news must be that the battle about Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s proposal to scrap the public employee unions’ right to collective bargaining continues unabated. The governor is not giving in and is now threatening to lay off thousands of public employees. The demonstrations in Madison continue as does the 14 Democratic senators’ exile to avoid a vote on the governor’s proposal in the Senate.
In other states like Ohio and Indiana, also with Republican governors, similar attempts – “union-busting,” according to many – are under way to limit the public sector trade union power, and the debate on the future of American union movement has now spread way beyond the battleground in Wisconsin.
In a commentary in the new issue of the New Yorker called “Union Blues,” Hendrik Hertzberg laments the decline of the American labor movement. Today, he writes, the public employee unions are the only ones which have retained, and even increased, their influence and membership, while the unions in the private sector have steadily declined in influence since the golden days in the 1950s and 60’s.
And in yesterday’s New York Times, Mayor Michael Bloomberg criticized attempts in Wisconsin and other states to kill the trade union movement. The unions are needed in the public sector, although some imbalance has been created in the system. Instead of declaring war on the unions, he wrote, should we negotiate new agreements with them, which would better reflect today’s realities in the economy and the workplace. 20bloomberg & st = cse


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