Monday, February 21, 2011

Union Rights- #WIunion

Ezra Klein actually reads Scott Walker's union bill, which is something some commentators might consider doing. The union-busting components of the bill are an existential threat to unions in Wisconsin and signal a long campaign of chipping away rights of workers to bargain for wages and conditions. Since the attack specifically targets public educators, it's worth remembering that there are currently five states that do not allow their teachers to unionize. They rank 44th, 47th, 48th, 49th, and 50th on college admissions test scores.

But I digress. The bill raises an obvious constitutional political rights question: if the same measures were proposed to apply to corporations, would the legislation be viable? Corporations and labor unions are mirror images of each other, organizing capital and labor, respectively, to more efficiently extract concessions of one another in negotiations. Let's consider this one prong of the attack:
And in part three, workers have to vote the union back into existence every single year.
Essentially Scott Walker's bill expunges the public teacher union every year, requiring workers to expend their time and energy reunizing instead of operating within an established institution. The corporate analogy would be a forced acquisition of all company stock followed by an IPO, an extraordinarily stressful and costly period for the corporation and shareholders alike. Would Republicans consider this a constitutional bill, or would it infringe on a protected economic right?

Oliver Wendell Holmes had it right in his Lochner dissent:
"The Fourteenth Amendment does not enact Mr. Herbert Spencer's Social Statics... the constitution is not intended to embody a particular economic theory, whether of paternalism and the organic relation of citizen to the state or laissez faire" (Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45, 75 (1905).
Nor was the New Deal or the right to organize enacted into the Constitution when the Supreme Court recanted its opposition to national control of the economy; rather, they backed away from its opposition to Roosevelt's new policy direction. Economic relations will always be subject to new political regulations, but one aspect of Walker's bill suggests there is something deeply unfair, and possibly justiciably unfair:
You may think Walker's proposal is a good idea or a bad idea. But that's what it does. And it's telling that he's exempting the unions that supported him and is trying to obscure his plan's specifics behind misleading language about what unions can still bargain for and misleading rhetoric about the state's budget.
Of course, public corruption can't be struck down merely by court order; the state of Wisconsin would have to prosecute Walker. The Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen, is also a Republican, so don't hold your breath for justice in the Badger state.

No comments:

Post a Comment