I’m feeling overwhelmed. Off balance. A little scared.
For the past several weeks I’ve been busy writing a new training course for union members on collective bargaining. Thinking about what people new to collective bargaining need to know. Focussing on a style of negotiations aimed at positive outcomes and preserving relationships.
While I’ve been doing this, the anti-union actions of the state of Wisconsin have not been lost on me. I’ve been wanting to write about this all week but I haven’t known where to begin. What to say.
I’ve been watching the growing protests, building across the United States as working people are standing up against efforts to take away their rights. Efforts that are spreading to Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and more.
And I’m writing about how to have a good conversation with management about real needs.
I’ve read in stunned shock the words of an Indiana politician advocating violence against union activists. Kill them, he tweeted.
Then I’ve written about moving away from traditional, combative win-lose negotiations to something rooted in mutual respect and aimed at getting changes and improvements that make sense. That with some art and creativity, benefit both sides.
What am I doing?
I’ve read about Toronto’s move to take away the right to strike from city transit workers. I read a column in the Globe and Mail criticising the move, arguing that anytime a hard-won right is taken away we all lose. I read the hundreds of comments on the Globe’s website criticizing the column, criticizing “lazy” and “overpaid” transit workers. “Why should they have decent salaries and pensions and benefits”, people wrote, “if I don’t have them?”
I don’t understand.
Shouldn’t the question be, “Why don’t I have a decent salary and pension and benefits too?”
Why shouldn’t everyone have the right to a reasonable income to feed and house their families, educate their children, be contributing members of society, have a pension that rewards years of hard work and allows them to live the winter of their lives in dignity?
Why do working people attack other working people who are lucky enough to benefit from being part of a union? And why is it okay to take away from those same working people when corporations and banks are making record profits, freed from paying a fair share of taxes? Who is the enemy?
I don’t understand.
And then I see people standing together in a show of solidarity when a government tries to take away their rights. Their rights. Something that should not, by definition, be able to be taken away.
I’ve read about the people of Egypt sending words of support to the workers of Wisconsin. I’ve read about growing protests throughout Europe over bailouts and bonuses while homelessness becomes commonplace and people freeze to death on the street. I listened this morning to reports of soldiers opening fire on citizen protesters in Libya.
I do understand that people do desperate things when they are in despair. Is that where we’re headed?
I spent today in a board meeting where I heard an American union leader say there’s been a civil war of ideas in the U.S. for some time. Yet he has hope. Because people are taking to the streets. There’s excitement in the air, there’s a movement building.
Yesterday, I wrote the final pieces of my bargaining course. Felt that sense of accomplishment when the deadline was met. For a moment, though, I wondered if it was a waste of time. Yet I still have faith that given guidance and good options, people can work together to achieve good outcomes.
It snowed again today. Another winter storm. Tomorrow I go on vacation. To Arizona. A state where guns prevail, Republicans rule, wealth is extreme and poverty is everywhere.
Much to think about. Much to consider. Much to try to comprehend.
Overwhelmed. Off balance. A little scared.
- “Faith Leaders Stand With Wisconsin Unions As Governor’s Plan To Incite Violence Uncovered” and related posts (chuckcurrie.blogs.com)
- Walker’s war against unions (timesunion.com)
- Unions Rally at New Jersey Capitol Against Christie, Walker (businessweek.com)
- Wisconsin passes bill taking away union rights (theglobeandmail.com)