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Monthly Archives: February 2010
As a union worker, the common refrain the past five years has been, “let’s keep the status quo. Let’s not ask for anything, but let’s not give up anything either”. It’s worked for the APWU the last ten-fifteen years.
A post by Numerian over at The Agonist lays out the final assault against unions: Public resentment of union wages and benefits in an era of stagnant private sector wages, Glenn Beck style “common sense” and globalization, coupled was massive deficits in the budgets of States in an era of severe economic recession, is about to destroy all gains unions have made in the last 150 or so years. The final battle against unionism has began, and it’s going to be a David vs. Goliath battle, except this time David doesn’t even have a rock while Goliath has a M1 Abrams Tank. While not publicly-funded like teachers, fire fighters and police, the postal unions faces the same scenario as they do. Mr. Numerian makes it very clear in the post that he or she sees unionism’s demise as a foregone conclusion.
It is not too difficult to determine the outcome of this fight. States and localities have no choice but to close their deficits, and the taxpayer has no appetite for greater taxes. Therefore the unions will have to accept cutbacks in salaries, wages and benefits; reductions in pension plans (amounting to an outright repudiation of legally-agreed payouts); and the loss of job protection, so that government officials can fire workers much more quickly. There will be nasty strikes over the next few years, and lawsuits aplenty as these cutbacks are enforced, but there simply isn’t the money to continue to pay union workers in government anything like what they have received in the past.
The deflation that has ravaged the pay and benefits of the middle class private sector worker is about to work its damage on the public sector as well. The middle class in the US will shrink even more, as one of the last bastions of protection against rampaging globalization and Republican market orthodoxy succumbs.
Numerian sees past this coming fall of unionism to the eventual campaign against the true “last bastion” of socialism in the US of A: The armed forces.
We can say “one of the last bastions”, but there is still one left, a sector of the economy that isn’t even unionized. That is the pay and benefit programs for the military, especially the officer corps who can retire at 50, slip into a well-paying job in the industrial complex, yet also take home generous retirement benefits. The costs of supporting tens of thousands of these retirees is galloping forward year after year, but this is so far a sacrosanct area that no politician will touch.
Even the Department of Defense may not be able to hold out forever, if economic conditions get really bad (and that is likely to be the case). If so, the concept of retirement with a fixed pension payment will be obliterated in this country, as the US continues on its path of erecting third world standards of pay and benefits for all its workers.
In an era of unbridled, atavistic “free market” capitalism for you and me and fascistic corporate welfare for those deemed “too big to fail” this scenario is increasingly realistic. Time to gather stones and swinging the bolo.
Read the whole post here.