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Monday, June 24, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Comrades of Another Snowy State Need Our Support

Michael Tyson

With budget slashing everywhere, including SUNY, it's only a matter of time before union busting rears its ugly head here.

Last week in Wisconsin, a political storm erupted over Governor Scott Walker's plans to charge state employee unions more for their pensions and health care and take away their collective bargaining rights. This set off massive protests in Madison from these unions.

Democrats in the state legislature, knowing that they would be voted down, fled the state in order to prevent the bill's passage. Fox News has labeled them cowards for running, but I say they are quite brave. They are taking the only course of action available to them to prevent something from happening that they know is wrong and that the people are against if the massive protests are any indication.

Just for a moment, let's take a look at the budget crisis in Wisconsin. Walker came into his office looking at a shortfall of $137 million. In order to combat this problem, he and state lawmakers promptly passed a $117 million dollar tax break for businesses and others. Now he's complaining that his state just doesn't have the funds to pay union wages.

Walker is not completely anti-union, though. The police and fire unions that supported his campaign are exempt from these new regulations, proving that Walker does stay true to his financial backers, at least.

After a week of mounting protests for their cause, the unions were even willing to negotiate on Friday by agreeing to pay more for their share of pension and health care but keeping their collective bargaining rights. Walker refused to budge.

For those that are curious, Governor Walker makes $144,423, with a likely pay increase coming to him in July.

This whole issue got me thinking about why unions seem to receive an almost universal bad rap. When they were first started back in the '20s and '30s, unions made it so that giant corporations could no longer treat their workers like expendable cogs. Safety and wage issues were resolved, and the rise of the middle and working classes was seen in the U.S.

This led to unions having greater and greater power when it came time to sit at the negotiation table and, sadly, also led to corruption in many union ranks. But to demonize all unions because of a few bad apples is ludicrous. Any organization is open to corruption; just take a look at Tammany Hall in New York City, or the city of Chicago, or almost any government in Africa. Corruption happens, but we don't welcome in anarchy because some governments rot; we cut out the rot and move on.

Around the time of Reagan, an insidious new form of union breaking, called outsourcing, came around. Union power waned, and with it went union reputations. News outlets couldn't get enough stories on union corruption, and people everywhere began questioning if we still needed them any more.

At the same time that unions started losing their power, CEOs and top executives of the very corporations claiming to not be able to pay union wages anymore saw their pay increase many times over. Now they are making several millions of dollars a year while complaining about a guy who brings in about $30 an hour if you count his benefits.

Why should we care about Madison way over here in Buffalo? The reason is simple; one of the major unions in danger of being neutered consists of Wisconsin teachers, for both collegiate and lower-level students. Attending the largest state-run school in New York gives us a very important reason to care. Governor Cuomo's proposed budget cuts will already be damaging to UB; if union negotiating rights are taken away, the whole system can go to pot.

The fact that Wisconsin has traditionally been a pro-union state, and does not have nearly the budget problems of other states, means that these issues could happen anywhere.

That protests have spread to other states gives me hope. This nation loves to talk about how we were founded on liberty and freedom. What better way is there to enslave someone than to pay them the lowest wages possible and take their level of education down?

Stand up for what's right, or fall for anything.

E-mail: michael.tyson@ubspectrum.edu


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