Capitalists Against Capitalism

What do Scott Walker, Chris Christie, David Stern and Roger Goodell have in common (The Republican Governor of Wisconsin, the Republican Governor of New Jersey, the Commissioner of the NBA and the Commissioner of the NFL, for those of us who don't read either Politico or the sports page)? They hate collective bargaining and free markets, and they're big capitalists.

Collective bargaining is a legal process whereby management (representing shareholders and owners) negotiates with a union (representing employees) to set the conditions of employment.  Free markets are systems where private persons make economic deals with each other.  Both are enshrined in American law. But collective bargaining is under siege from the Right, and hidden behind that attack is a fear of free markets.

Collective bargaining laws began in the New Deal, bringing an end to the violence and legal attacks on workers.  These laws were essential to the creation of a vibrant American middle-class and to the successes of the Great Prosperity of the Forties through the Seventies.  

Flash forward to the 2000s, and the Great Recession's made money scarce (except for management salaries which continue to skyrocket).  Governors Walker and Christie not only argue that we can't afford to pay the cost of public employment negotiated by public sector unions; that's not enough.  They demand we end the system that negotiated these costs; no more collective bargaining.  Commissioners Stern and Goodell have a clever wrinkle on the same deal.  While they bargain with the union, they've called a "lock-out" (managements version of a strike) because once the owners bargained with individual players, well, they agreed to salaries that management deems too high.  So, instead of free market negotiations, they want a "hard cap," a legal limit on the ability of owners and players to privately bargain for individual salaries.

All four attack the very process that made America fair and prosperous for workers, not just for management and owners.  They're capitalists who oppose bargaining and private deals, because workers benefit.  It's not just concentrated economic power they seek, it's concentrated legal power and a real diminution of the rights and economic status of workers.

What's wrong, guys? Don't you believe in free market bargaining?  Don't you have faith in the ability of franchise owners, Mayors, and Governors to bargain?  Your real complaint is that management did a bad job in the negotiations, and instead of toughening up at the bargaining table, you want to change the rules. 

Well, you may have the political clout to get some of this done, but Americans will ultimately reassert their support for fairness and for a prosperous middle-class that gave us vigorous workplace democracy and collective bargaining.  It's the American Way, and it's the right thing to do.

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