I think unions had a very valid function when they first came into existence. Preventing people from dying in industrial accidents, and making sure that the average worker got a fair shake were their primary goads. Were they corrupt in many senses? Of course. And I think that in the past few decades, scapegoating workers and their compensation for the ills of the country has become rather fashionable.
Nowadays, I think that unions still have a valid function, given the posturing evident by Governor Scott Walker (R-WI). The bill in question that would strip unions of their right to collective bargaining advanced in the lower chamber of the state legislature when Republicans, after refusing to deliberate on any amendments whatsoever, sprung a surprise vote on the floor, and closing it seconds later, a period during which most Democrats present didn’t get a chance to vote.
The bill’s now headed to the state Senate, where all 14 of the Democratic Senators have, for all intents and purposes, gone on strike in absentia, rather ironically, preventing the body from conducting any business whatsoever. So, gridlock will ensue. And, before you criticize, know that Abraham Lincoln pulled the same kind of stunt, not showing up for work (actually, jumping out of a second story window) as an Illinois state legislator, to prevent a bill from advancing in the 1840s.
I don’t think that Walker is primarily interested in reducing labor costs. The unions have said that they’re willing to make concessions. On the face of it, sure, he is, but I don’t think that’s his real goal. Walker has rejected every compromise extended to him. Everyone else in the country is feeling the pain, why shouldn’t unions? And unions recognize this. But Walker has rejected their offers out of hand, indicating, at least to me, that his primary goal isn’t the reduction of labor expenditures, but the destruction of the unions. This really is a shame. Instead of focusing on balancing the budget of the state and focusing on job creation, we have a Republican governor who’s intent on destroying opponents and waging philosophical battles instead of achieving concrete, bipartisan results. I can only imagine what sort of tone this is setting for the rest of his administration. Governor Walker was just inaugurated in January.