By now, many of the country’s public sector workers are still reeling from last night’s news that Republicans in Wisconsin voted to strip workers in that state of their collective bargaining rights.
You can watch live video from the state Capitol in Wisconsin above, or find more at TheUptake.
What’s clear is that Walker’s anti-union attack isn’t just about Wisconsin. Across the country, public sector workers are fighting back against right-wing efforts to bust the trademark powers of unions – whether it’s collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, or so-called “entitlement” programs that are being cut back in cities and localities nationwide.
Walkers’ anti-union message rests on the myth that public workers, many of whom are black in states like Indiana, New Jersey, and Michigan – are overcompensated. As I’ve written before, data from the Economic Policy Institute shows how that the complete opposite is true. To re-hash:
Comparisons controlling for education, experience, hours of work, organizational size, gender, race, ethnicity and disability, reveal no significant overpayment but a slight undercompensation of public employees when compared to private employee compensation costs on a per hour basis. On average, full-time state and local employees are undercompensated by 3.7%, in comparison to otherwise similar private-sector workers. The public employee compensation penalty is smaller for local government employees (1.8%) than state government workers (7.6%).
Kai Wright’s also written on how the current demonization of public workers is radicalized:
• 14.5 percent of all public sector workers in the nation are black, making the sector second only to health and education services as the most heavily black workforce. In all other sectors, black workers hover around or below 10 percent. Again, if you took out states with disproportionate white populations or even focused on states with budget crises, I bet you’d see an even greater disparity.
• More than one in five black workers are employed in public administration, as are 23.3 percent of black women in the workforce. That compares to just under 17 percent of all white workers.
• Black women in the public sector make significantly less than everyone else. Their median wage is $15.50 an hour; the sector’s median wage overall is $18.38. White men make $21.24.
Earlier this week, Zaid Jilani at Think Progress highlighted five of the most important victories unions have won for documented workers in America, even those who seem to be against them. Here are a couple of nuggets:
Unions Gave Us The Weekend: Even the ultra-conservative Mises Institute notes that the relatively labor-free 1870, the average workweek for most Americans was 61 hours – almost double what most Americans work now. Yet in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century, labor unions engaged in massive strikes in order to demand shorter workweeks so that Americans could be home with their loved ones instead of constantly toiling for their employers with no leisure time. By 1937, these labor actions created enough political momentum to pass the Fair Labor Standards Act, which helped create a federal framework for a shorter workweek that included room for leisure time.
Unions Helped End Child Labor: “Union organizing and child labor reform were often intertwined” in U.S. history, with organization’s like the National Con in the early 20th century to ban child labor. The very first American Federation of Labor (AFL) national convention passed a “resolution calling on states to ban children under 14 from all gainful employment” in 1881, and soon after states across the country adopted similar recommendations, leading up to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act which regulated child labor on the federal level for the first time.