When interviewing several university professors and public school teachers, many of them could not give a simple explanation of their views on collective bargaining. The majority of them agreed that collective bargaining and unions can certainly be beneficial for both public and private sector workers. For teaching, educators acknowledge that their professions do not yield massive amounts of wealth, so they suggest this tool be used in order to improve working conditions and conditions in the classroom. In this way, they are using their right to collectively bargain to fight for the students and improve the quality of education.
Such was the case in Chicago recently, where 29,000 teachers went on strike to protest their working conditions.
Yes, it is true that teachers would appreciate higher wages, and they rightfully deserve such increases, but they also recognize that they must be realists when it comes to collective bargaining and unions. Teachers understand that, while they will push for what they believe they need in order to properly educate their students, they may not always get their way. This realistic approach pushes many educators to be reasonably wary of unions, however, because they know that union power has the potential to be abused.
History has revealed what can happen when such power is used for personal, political or economic gain, the prime example being the unions in the auto industry in the latter half of the 1900s. The union leaders and representatives strived to mimic the look of Wall Street bankers while pushing for unrealistic and irrational changes in salaries, benefits, and other terms of employment for auto industry workers. These changes proved to be detrimental to future workers and future developing businesses. Although, while unions did play a hand on the damage done to the auto industry, the businesses were not entirely innocent, and did, in fact, add to the damage.
But history does not always dictate how the future will necessarily play out.
Collective bargaining and unions, without a doubt, can provide great benefits to the American workforce, in both the public and private sectors. But we, the American people, need to approach the topic of collective bargaining rationally, recognize that it is an essential right, be cautious of the potential risks in order to avoid any manipulation of our system and work together for the benefit of everyone in our society.
While the final ruling of Act 10 will come from a higher court in the appeals process, we can only hope the higher courts will strike down the Wisconsin law. Perhaps then these attacks on unionized workers, not only in Wisconsin but in other states as well, will cease to exist.