"These are the values inspiring those brave workers in Poland … They remind us that where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." -- Ronald Reagan (Labor Day address, 1980)
This is quite an exciting quote from that great friend of labor, Ronald Reagan. An hour after reading the words, I realized a few things. Labor Day is the first Monday in September.Back in 1980, that was September 1, a full two months before the landslide election that made him President.
I do not believe it is healthy to prejudice myself against politicians. I know easy it is to say things to ingratiate myself before others. I will not debase myself by suggesting all politicians are liars. What is possible, likely I believe, is many politicians are horribly forgetful. Luckily for them, many reporters have great resources, and more reliable memories.
In his ninth month on the job, President Ronald Reagan was faced with a crisis when the air traffic controllers union, PATCO, went on strike. It could be argued that such an act is like terrorism, using their weight of 13,000 workers to bring all air traffic to a stop. It does seem almost wicked to realize their jobs are so important, so powerful, that they could demand whatever they want if we want our planes moving safely through the air .
This union action was brought directly to the President, who- without much negotiation, without his care for the "free unions and collective bargaining" of PATCO, took action to squash it like a bug. PATCO was dissolved, and all striking workers were fired.
Now, state and local governments throughout the United States are voting to rob unions' bargaining rights for all levels of public service. Democrats and Republicans are marching, arms akimbo to squash the labor unions of all civil servants; this includes the mayor and city council of my own home, San Jose. It is a heartless endeavor, and it is a radical solution for the many city councils and state legislatures that have decided we can blame our social workers and teachers for our unbalanced budgets.
To the degree we can trace President Reagan's failing commitment to free unions even thirty years later, I think it is immensely sad that we have forgotten what caused our economy to crash a short four years ago. It was not our public employees. It was not our welfare recipients. Nor was it caused by people failing to read their mortgage papers properly. I wonder why no one remembers AIG, or Goldman Sachs and the multi trillion dollar con game they perpetuated to destroy our stability.
I am not a reporter, but I do see that as many local and state governments scramble to pass budgets, many are speaking out trying to get us to believe our problems reside in bad teachers, apathetic civil servants, and cell phone allowances. I believe civil servants are our allies. I believe that once we rob them of their bargaining rights, the numbers of good candidates for those jobs will diminish. All this and more can be ours as we watch television shows chronicling the failures of American education. Crippling our unions may seem reasonable, but it could be irreversible. I think this should be long considered before we move ahead with something so dreadfully extreme.
Our public workers are not much richer than anyone else. Most of them work very hard to provide services to our communities. I will not look at them as my enemy, just because doing so might make it easier for some other bureaucrat to balance a budget.
Thank you for reading.