Trade unionism in the United States began as a good thing; during the years prior to the turn of the last century working conditions across the nation, and particularly in the Midwest and the industrial Northeast, were deplorable. Safety laws were virtually nonexistent, giving way to horrible workplace disasters like the 1911 Triangle Factory Fire and the Speculator Mine disaster, a few years later. Those conditions do not exist in the United States today, at least in legally operated corporations, and never have in the public sector.
In the years since World War II, trade unionism has slowly strangled the nation out of the competitive market in manufacturing and served to help increase our enormous trade deficit. That is just in the private sector. Public sector unions are one of the primary causes the current financial crisis in states like California and Wisconsin.
All of the above facts aside, the governor of Wisconsin may not know exactly what he is into here.
Collective bargaining with government workers began in Wisconsin in 1959, and the unions of America are determined not to see it end there. The 14 Democratic Party legislators who are purposely violating their oath of office by hiding out in neighboring states know exactly what they are doing; they believe that they can outlast the public’s will to hold out. They quite possibly can.
And it is becoming a trend.
Trade unions—and it makes little different as to whether they are public or private sector unions—are built for just the kinds of situations Governor Scott Walker has created for himself in Wisconsin. Their leaders are trained annually in strike strategy and work slowdown techniques. They teach their memberships that all worker disputes are eventually settled, and that if they will stay united they will win.
The doctors who have been writing fraudulent medical releases for the teacher in the street were rounded up by the unions month ago. This is standard “sick out” strategy. Walker has at his disposal the resources to investigate and bring charges against both the employees and the doctors who are engaging in this fraud, and he should be aggressive in using them.
What is disturbing is Governor Walker’s seeming inability to understand that he is in the political fight of his life. While he insists that he is not trying to bust the unions in his state, he should be. Because at this very moment the Obama administration is throwing its full weight behind the unions to bust him. Walker is literally at war with every union in America.
If Scott Walker is to win in Wisconsin it will not be because a few thousand tea party protesters show up to lend their moral support; this battle can only be won by breaking the public sector unions that are draining state coffers. He must be decisive and bold in his strategy, because time is on the side of the employees.
The Governor must strike fear in the hearts of these protesting union members; he should draw first blood by expediting layoff notices. Walker should warn teachers and other public employees that if their legislators do not return to Wisconsin immediately that he will lock them out and hire replacements until they do. He must do so without apology and with the clear message that he intends to hire workers to replace them permanently.
For every wasted day from here on Walker’s chances of winning diminish. He must win this fight in short order.
Editor’s Note: Grant O’Neill is a former union organizer and negotiator with expertise in strike strategy and work stoppage techniques.