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Wisconsin: Don’t Allow Hard-Won Gains for Workers to be Rolled Back
InForum: The Forum of Fargo-Moorehead
Jim Lee

March 19, 2011
View the Original Article


The real issue in the imbroglio in Wisconsin is the definition of a basic entitlement. Is an employer entitled to the labor he hires at whatever price the market sets, or is the worker entitled to a living wage?

As a citizen and a taxpayer, I want my employees – teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, garbage collectors, etc. – to be paid a wage sufficient to raise a family, and I am willing to pay taxes for that purpose.

Disclosure: I am a retired Postal Service employee with a pension and health insurance that provides me and my wife the essentials, and an occasional luxury like a trip to visit our daughter in Oregon. I earned my pension with payroll deductions every payday, and I continue to pay for health care both through my federal plan and Medicare.

If private-sector workers are less well off, the solution is not to reduce us to their level, but to raise their wages and benefits to a living wage. Instead of demanding cuts in the public sector, we should be demanding better for everyone, through collective bargaining and minimum- wage laws.

The employer makes a profit from labor’s contribution, and he will hire the cheapest labor that can do the job. Women and children were employed in the mines of England early in the Industrial Revolution. The mill girls of New England manned the textile mills while their fathers and brothers struggled to eke out a living on their rocky farms. Sweat shops continue to this day. The world economy, propelled by outsourcing, exploits women and children while their husbands and fathers are under-employed.

Enlightened working men and women rebelled in the last century, forming unions and withholding their labor by striking. They invoked progressive governments to enact wage and hour laws, unemployment insurance and workmen’s compensation. In the Progressive era of the LaFolletes, Wisconsin was at the epicenter of these reforms.

Let’s not let reactionary politicians divide us and roll back our hard-earned gains; rather let us unite for a better life for all of us. The super-rich are rich enough; to demand they share the wealth their workers create is not unreasonable.