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Union movement lacks solidarity

June 29, 2012
The Daily News

EDITOR:As residents of Graham and Greenlee counties (in Arizona) - which for years were strongly union because of the organized copper mine workers -many are pondering, with some level of confusion, the results of the effort to recall union-busting Scott Walker, first-term governor of Wisconsin.

To understand what took place, one has to realize that all unions are not the same in the eyes of many folks, including current union members themselves, and those toiling without the obvious benefits of membership in a strong labor organization.

Walker's offensive against the union movement was focused on unions serving the interests of public sector workers - those working for all levels of government in various capacities, including firemen, law enforcement officers and teachers. The public generally perceives these unions as separate and distinctly different from unions that represent workers working for private companies and corporations.

Why? Because members of private sector unions benefit from wage and perk concessions from the private sector, whereas members of public sector unions, when successful in bargaining for wage increases and other concessions, have their gains financed by taxpayers who finance public purposes of all kinds.

Thus members of the private sector unions are not necessarily supportive of public sector union workers for purely selfish reasons - they have their union protection and benefits but realize that they will be called upon to participate in providing tax revenues to finance any gains the public employees who are unionized might secure through collective bargaining.

A measure of human nature - or "I've got mine, you get yours" mentality - comes into play in the scenario described. It is inevitable. So it was no surprise that pre-election polling indicated that 39 percent of Wisconsin union members were supporting Walker, even though the cause of the recall effort was his decimation of public sector union rights and advantages. Those represented by that poll statistic were obviously members of private sector unions whose personal situations were not challenged by Walker's union-busting initiatives.

There was a time when union solidarity was so powerful that those opposed to collective bargaining pushed legislation against so-called secondary boycotts, wherein members of unions not engrossed in a current standoff with management would call work stoppages in support of their union brothers and sisters who had issues with their employers.

Union membership nationally was once more than 35 percent of the national work force. Currently, the level is less than 10 percent, and even that small share of the total is under constant siege from those who want to keep the working stiffs in their place.

As a consequence, any chance of restoring the working class to a more equitable share of what was a while back referred to as "the American dream" is withering on the vine.

Rudy Dalpra,

Crystal Falls



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