Don't Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.
May
2012
14

Labor Professor: In Pennsylvania, “Union Busting Won’t Help…”

PA Gov. Tom Corbett


The story of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett begins with Pennsylvania unions being busted and ends with privatization in the name of “tax relief.” While the state’s money woes could easily be solved by higher taxation on corporations, Corbett is taking pages out of the American For Prosperity/ALEC playbook and demonizing teachers, township workers and union members instead of finding real solutions.

So, Charles McCollester, retired professor of Industrial and Labor Relations at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, wrote an opinion piece for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette titled, “Union busting won’t help: Pennsylvania’s problem is shortsighted politicians”:

One would have to go back to Pennsylvania Gov. John Fisher, who ruled the state from 1927 to 1931 on behalf of the coal and steel barons, to find a state leader as anti-union as Gov. Tom Corbett. His efforts to starve and privatize public education and collapse public transportation while shielding gas interests from reasonable taxation and adequate health, safety and zoning regulation are stunningly bold. Once the teacher and transit unions are broken, can construction unions and state workers be far behind?

Construction unions are likely the next target of the Corbett administration. In the PA GOP’s view, it is better for public work to be done at low cost by unskilled or undocumented workers than to pay a fair wage for trained, quality work. McCollester continues:

The governor’s prescription for Allegheny County’s transit crisis is to demand that workers who have already made numerous concessions take a knife to their union contract with no guarantee that any further sacrifice will trigger governmental relief. In this tactic, he is following the national Republican playbook to blame workers for the nation’s economic ills. While the poor get poorer, the middle class gets squeezed; the irresponsible wealthy whose actions precipitated the crisis get richer and more powerful.

The game plan for construction unions can be predicted by looking at what the Governor has done to education: he has tried to rid the state of the school system (both at lower and higher levels of education) that has been a positive for so many of the state’s young residents (such as myself, a PA native). The current system is fair and works well, with an excellent education within reach at affordable state colleges like Slippery Rock University, IUP, Clarion and so on. Yet, Governor Corbett doesn’t want to fund these schools anymore and certainly doesn’t want to have to pay teachers at public high schools either:

In this context, the heartfelt cry of leaders of three of Pittsburgh’s most prestigious and progressive foundations to “protect our best teachers” in the city schools (Post-Gazette Forum, April 29) is the product of either naivete or bad faith.

While the authors pour honey on the teachers union’s past efforts to cooperate with the school district, they go for the jugular by targeting “antiquated laws” that require layoffs by seniority. They focus on seniority as the root of the problem while passing lightly over the “cuts in funding for urban schools such as Pittsburgh’s” that they themselves describe as “so deep that the very bones of education bear the marks.” They might more usefully direct their attention toward the forces doing the bone cutting.

The fact is that transportation, education, health care and other essential services are under the gun because of an inequitable system that lays the burden of government on the middle class and poor. Giant nonprofits escape taxation entirely, and two-thirds of Pittsburgh’s workers live outside the city and contribute little to its public transportation and schools. Private corporations shed crocodile tears over tax rates that are high in theory but contain so many loopholes that many of the largest pay little or nothing.

People need to know that the Governor is in no way representing his constituents. Corbett and his cronies would rather demonize hard workers getting paid well for their skills and dedication than try to figure out the state’s problems with innovative solutions.

Read McCollester’s entire op-ed HERE.

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