Workers deserve better

The war against workers is coming on strong in Nevada.

State legislators and reactionary activists say they don’t mind the workers but disapprove of the unions the workers have built to protect themselves. But it is not for them to choose for workers.

They claim that workers’ demands have drained local governments of revenue—at a time when those governments have handed out corporate welfare like cookies to out-of-state firms like Cabela’s and Scheels. Those arrangements, not firefighters, bleed local governments.

In Las Vegas, where unions enjoy some political power, unlike Reno, they are still under attack. In the mayor’s race, the Las Vegas Review-Journal did not endorse candidate Carolyn Goodman so much as it withheld its support for candidate Chris Giunchigliani for being too supportive of workers. It supported Goodman over Giunchigliani because it prefers “a mayor who won’t bow down to the unions that nearly bankrupted government.” It wasn’t the unions that bankrupted governments in this state. It was subsidizing businesses with tax dollars through tourism improvement districts and STAR bonds.

At the Nevada Legislature, lawmakers—Republicans and Democrats—undercut collective bargaining for teachers, even though collective bargaining is one of the great success stories in U.S. education. States with strong labor unions for teachers tend to score highest on standardized tests. The legislators would rather injure education than support workers rights.

In news coverage, an underlying premise is that being close to workers is a handicap while being close to business is not—a premise that can’t fail to slant coverage.

Democrats in the legislature seemed at times to have comsumed the right’s Kool-Aid, repeating absurd Republican talking points but offering no greater proof for those points than the GOP has. This is not all that surprising, given how the “party of the people” has developed a craving for corporate money.

With Democrats and Republicans both engaging in union-bashing based on urban legends, where can workers look for political leadership?

Collective bargaining, prevailing wage, teacher tenure and other policies are features of the workplace that have protected workers from business or employer abuses and provided the public with outstanding services and goods. Thanks to a media made up of stenographers and a Democratic Party made up of candyasses, only one side of the story is being heard, with consequences that will injure the public for years to come.

One Las Vegas business publication recently reported of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, “The chamber makes the case that because of collective bargaining, public employees are paid far more than the national average, which exacerbates retirement system obligations.”

That’s nonsense, as journalists in this state should have reported. The Center for Economic and Policy Research: “The problem with these analyses is that state and local government workers have much higher levels of formal education and are older (and therefore generally more experienced) than workers in the private sector. When state and local government employees are compared to private-sector workers with similar characteristics, state and local workers actually earn 4 percent less, on average, than their private-sector counterparts.” (Emphasis added.)

In the United States, workers—in and out of unions—keep the nation together and do not deserve the mistreatment they get from Republicans or Democrats.