Saturday, February 26, 2011

I am Psychic

A few months ago, I posted this entry about the number one reason labor unions are a good thing.

And, as I watch the events unfold in Wisconsin, and here in my state of Ohio, I realize just how prescient I was.

The governor of Wisconsin is engaged in a push to pass through a bill that will take away the right of public employees to collectively bargain. It will also do a few other nasty things. Mainly, it will allow the government to sell any state-owned facility that provides heating, cooling, and electricity to a private corporation or entity without any competitive bidding. Do I need to explain to anyone the potential problems with that?

The proposed bill also will allow officials appointed by the governor to make cuts in health care to poor families without any legislative oversight. As if the poor needed any more obstacles in their path. Desperate Democrats, of course, are doing everything they can to stop it. And they have a LOT of support, whipped up by nearly every progressive organization from every state in the country.

Here in my state of Ohio, of course, newly elected Republican Governor John Kasich is attempting to enact similar measures, apparently taking his VERY slim win last November (he didn't even get a majority of the votes) as a mandate to do whatever he pleases. All these changes are proposed, of course, in the name of cutting the state deficit. That, of course, is ridiculous. It is not the public employees that caused the state's massive budget deficit. It was the financial crisis precipitated under a Republican administration and fed by the unregulated financial markets that ruled under same.

Ohio's governor, of course, worked for Lehman Brothers before he entered politics. At his advice, Ohio's Public Employee pension fund, of which I am a contributing member, invested heavily in Lehman Brothers. I think we all know what happened. Now, instead of focusing on the real problems, like cutting back the massive tax breaks received by the wealthy, which are one of the major causes of the budget deficits, he is instead scapegoating the public workers and doing his best to strip them of all of their rights. To strip me of my rights.

I have been a public servant for nearly fifteen years now. I have devoted more than half of my working life to public service. I am not rich by any stretch of the imagination. I barely make ends meet. I have a 90 year old house that is gradually falling apart around me. I drive a 12 year old compact car. I make less than $30K a year and I can barely support myself. I am not the cause of the state budget deficit. Nor are any of my co-workers, or any of the other 4000 or so county employees who I work alongside every, along with the thousands of city, state, and federal employees who work with us to make sure the lights stay on, the water flows from the taps, the roads stay passable, the streets stay safe, and the mail gets delivered. And yes, there are corrupt public employees only interested in enriching themselves, but such employees are the exception, not the rule.

If the Governors of Wisconsin and Ohio, as well as many other states, have their way, then all of those services will eventually become the responsibility of private, for-profit corporations. Corporations, I might add, that might not even be America-based. Corporations that will have no interest in anything but increasing their profits at the expense of everything else.

Labor unions are our only line of defense against them. An organized workforce is the only way to stop corporations from completely controlling our lives. And that is the primary reason why corporations, and their Republican lap dogs, are doing everything in their power to destroy them.

This whole cycle is nothing new, of course. Over 100 years ago the first labor unions faced the same challenges they are facing today. Union members fought, and, in many cases, died, to earn the rights workers enjoy today.

Those members are watching us today. And they will judge us by what happens. I hope they are not disappointed.

I'm not optimistic.

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