"I'm optimistic about the ability of the American people to do the right thing right now. What happened yesterday is just another signal—and it will echo throughout the country. What you're seeing is the people in Wisconsin...they looked at the record of a strong conservative who cut back on the size of government, who helped bring down taxes, who said we have to reform public sector unions that have asked for too much."
-Mitt Romney, speaking at a fundraiser in San Antonio, Texas, June 6
Yup. I have to admit, I do agree with presumptive candidate Romney on this one—we, the people, do possess the ability to do the right thing.
And that's where Mitt and I get sucked to opposite poles like we've strapped on magnet-filled backpacks. Shoot, I missed his awkward attempt at a high-five.
Mittens, in his rosy diatribe, was referring to Wisconsin's unsuccessful attempt to recall Governor Scott Walker. Just to recap, as one of Walker's first executive mandates, he'd decided to strip the state's public employees of their collective bargaining rights.
Before the aromatic droplets of lemony fresh Pledge had dried on his new IKEA desk, before he'd even figured out how to log into his email, Walker was staring out the window at hordes of pitchfork-toting teachers, and, ironically, torch-bearing firefighters.
The teachers had approached the capitol steps in an orderly manner because, you know, you never run with forks.
A bit of history: Prior to the first education unions of the early twentieth century, teacher pay was meager but it was one of the few professional jobs open to women. Working conditions were dismal, with class sizes often eighty or more students, and tenure wasn't transferable; it was only available for as long as she remained at a particular school. In fact, tenure had evolved as one of the few perks available to those who were paid low wages—not just teachers.
Pensions or health benefits? Ha! good one.
The International Association of Firefighters was formed in 1918. Apparently, these guys grew tired of working eighty-four-hour weeks and twenty-four-hour shifts, earning twenty-nine cents per hour and covering their faces with wet towels before sprinting into a wall of fire.
Pensions or health benefits? Hey, if you can afford a wet towel, you can afford a wire brush to denude the charred skin from your third degree burns, you smoke-hacking divas.
Okay, look. I'm not some Stalinist pinko who thinks that public sector unions are perfect. Just like their adversaries in state executive branches, leadership has proven vulnerable to corrupt influences. And dead weight will endure as a by-product of the job security ensured by membership.
But here's the thing: America's middle class, and its prosperity, can be attributed to its labor unions. The fair wages, retirements and healthcare created after World War II allowed for a new quality of life for tens of millions of our citizens.
When your boss asked you to throw that cardboard box of uranium in the dumpster on your way out, you could finally tell him, "I'm going to need to go ahead and not do that."
Your eight-year-old daughter could finally play with the lawn darts, rather than weld a minimum of three hundred per shift.
And now, candidate Romney sings the praises of a man who's temporarily stifled his opposition. With all the lip service paid to educational improvements and higher test scores, I wonder if Governor Walker will allocate more resources to education now that the teachers' union is off his back.
I wonder if, now that Wisconsin's firefighters have been stifled, Walker will back legislation to support first responders. I'd assume that, in light of recent threats posed by chemical, biological, and even nuclear attacks, he would become emergency workers' staunchest ally now that they're out of the way.
But I don't think so.
Thanks for weighing in on this issue, Governor Romney. I'm appalled at your response...but not surprised.