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Labor pains

Dear Editor:

Get ready for “triple witching” week for America’s socio-economic barometer.

In the span of five days we may see the federal government shut down for lack of funding, the NFL lock out its players for lack of a labor agreement; and Wisconsin sold to the Canadian province of Ontario for a few dozen cheesehead hats and a 15-year-old autographed Bret Favre jersey.

OK, I made that last one up, but you know the issue …

Republicans threaten to close down the government unless Democrats agree to spending concessions. Since the government spends $3 million more per minute than it takes in, this sounds like a worthy cause, particularly when your corporate tax rate is already the world’s second highest.

Don’t worry, Japan plans to lower theirs this May, and then we’ll be No. 1.

Our elected leaders’ Charlie Sheenesque addiction to spending robs our economic system of its own future to finance an inebriated obsession with life in the moment beyond our means.

So instead of cooperation on meaningful cuts, we get partisan rhetoric and the debt limit goes up.

Into this mess come two unions.

For 16 weeks the NFL distracts us from reality. Billionaire owners believing more is always better want 18 weeks of football. Millionaire players disagree and short-sightedly plan to decertify their union, freeing players to sue and prevent the owner’s planned lockout, thereby increasing the likelihood they might get paid next fall.

Then there are the Wisconsin’s teachers, the point of America’s labor spear in its growing test of strength against both resurgent conservatism and their nearly bankrupt state and local government employers.

Both unions risk paying dearly for their tactics.

The NFLPA’s narrow vision banks on post self-immolation player unity, but by decertifying themselves, players sever legal ties to each other and over time will subordinate that unity to the reality of extravagant lifestyles requiring paychecks. As training camp nears, and if owners remain patient, defections will mount. The player’s only hope: that a U.S. District Court judge saves them from themselves by denying their petition.

Meanwhile, to keep union pay at pre-recession levels, American labor wields the plight of Wisconsin teachers to focus public anger and intimidate legislators. Big mistake.

Flash back to 1981, President Reagan fires America’s striking civilian air traffic controllers. Why was this possible? In a dreadful economy, those with less, in this case the mechanics and flight attendants, crossed PATCO’s picket lines and kept their jobs. The planes kept flying with the help of military air traffic controllers.

Flash forward to 2010, the average Wisconsin teacher earned over $75,000 including benefits. For the average American worker the number was less than $56,000, and they don’t even need to cross a picket line. Of course teachers are worth $75,000, that’s not the point.

In today’s economy, expect little support from the masses for union workers with safe jobs, good benefits, and regular paychecks, irrespective of the worthiness of their cause.

Like it or not, it’s the “new normal.”

Paul Menter

Carbondale


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