Last year, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas struck down several sections of Wisconsin’s Act 10 which effectively prohibited unions representing public employees from using collective bargaining. Governor Scott Walker (R) and his appointees on the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) continued to enforce the law as if no ruling against them had ever been made.
Judge Colas was not amused. On Monday he ruled that Walker and WERC were in contempt of court for continuing to enforce the law that he had ruled against last year.
The Governor and WERC have contended that the ruling had applied only to the two unions which had initiated the original challenge to the law and had scheduled re-certification votes for unions across the state. That was the next step in their plan to eliminate union representation entirely in typical TEApublican fashion.
Christina Brey, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Education Association Council said, “We were pleased to see that the commissioners were finally taken to task for enforcing an unconstitutional law. All along they’ve been thumbing their nose at the court’s ruling and today’s ruling that they were in contempt of court was a wake-up call for the commission, that they are not above the law.”
Ms. Brey went on to add, “We’re telling our members to continue watching it and go ahead as they have been, just to be sure they continue to organize in their local schools. This is what we teach our students every day. There is a system of checks and balances. This is basic civics and it cannot be ignored.”
We have seen a renewed effort with the advent of the Tea Party movement to delegitimize and eliminate organized labor. They have had inexplicable success at convincing working people that unions are not their friend and have even managed to convince them that unions are, in fact, the enemy.
They have very successfully argued that it is the ‘greed’ of unions which have driven off the good jobs in this country. They have been so successful in this campaign of disinformation that it is very hard to convince many who have bought into the lies that it is not the greed of the union worker that has driven jobs offshore, but rather the greed of those in the front offices.
There are still many who insist that the unions were what killed off the food giant Hostess, claiming that the unions refused to make any concessions and that it was this which led to the companies bankruptcy. In truth, the unions had made one concession after another with those in upper management rewarding themselves for each concession with another raise. When the unions finally stood up and said, “enough,” those same upper management people declared that the intractability of the unions had left them no option other than bankruptcy.
Let’s hope that this one small win in Wisconsin is the opening act in a renewal of the power of unions in the U.S. The signs are promising with workers at fast food outlets and Walmart beginning to organize. We have evidence that businesses who do not drive their employees to organize can and do succeed, just take a look at Costco, they pay their workers a living wage ans yet remain competitive.
Contrary to popular wisdom, a well-paid workforce is not detrimental to the economy, it is actually a boon. Those workers have more disposable income and therefore pump more money into the economy making it stronger not weaker.