This archived article was written by: Cassidy Scovill
Like most college students, whenever the news is on, I tend to immediately change the channel to something more interesting. This changed the moment I heard Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker propose the bill for balancing the state’s budget. His bill was to not place the burden of balancing the budget equally between the rich and poor. Instead he went after public sector employees, hardworking people with an average income of $75,000, like teachers and sanitation workers.
The real issue wasn’t the cuts in their pensions, it was the direct attack on union bargaining rights. Even after the unions agreed to the financial reform, Gov. Walker refused the deal because his real intention was to strip away their bargaining rights all along. The ability to bargain for wages and working conditions is what unions stand for.
My father was a coal miner for most of my life. He worked in a union mine and my mother’s family also has history of coal miners, some were part of a union and some were not. The difference between a union miner and a non-union miner is more than just the benefits. It’s having a safe working environment and job security. According to a survey by the Mine Safety and Health Administration in 2008, union mines accounted for 23 percent of the casualties that year. My father was a member of the United Mine Workers of America which meant, after ten years in the union, he got personal insurance and, after 20 years, the benefits extend to cover the entire family.
So why strip away a worker’s ability to argue? A union’s purpose is for workers to unite and have some power over what happens in their job. Take this away and you essentially take any power the workers have in their job. They are under complete control by their employers, are forced to accept conditions and they have no job security. In addition to all of that, they can be fired for any reason or no reason at all.
Gov. Walker’s bill is nothing short of an outright attack on the unions, even after the funds he requested were agreed upon. He is deliberately neutering the unions power, and without unions, the worker has no voice.