I don't subscribe to that apparent left-wing narrative that "all unions are always good always." Unions, like any large human organization, are just as capable of serious and fatal flaws as they are to obsolecence.
But the "union thuggery" narrative used so often by the far-right wing, despite contrary evidence, is a national one. It further erodes the credibility of real conservatives who associate with madness like this and refreshes in my mind what is at stake in Madison.
Don't fool yourself, this is all about political power, political marketing and credibility. Ending the right to collectively bargain has very little to do with actually balancing a budget. Because budgets have to do with revenues and expenditures; you don't balance those two things by significantly cutting revenues while reducing tiny amounts of expenditures and granting massive subsidies or giveaways to political allies.
In essence, the Republican runs on a platform of fiscal responsiblity, then institutes fiscally irresponsible legislation while cloaking it in some larger, more emotional national narrative. If they actually win, all the better. If they lose, they get to harvest the support that comes from intellectually incurious individuals on their "side" who see other Americans as less than Americans. Partisan political hackery at its finest.
As for the unions and their sympathizers, I can only hope this serves as a wake-up call to revitalize local and state-level activism. I hope it serves as a moment when these unions and activists become more politically savvy. (The ironic "union thug" t-shirt is a fantastic idea that needs to be replicated.) I hope this is the moment they begin to bring unions back from the brink of outdated-ness that they are fast approaching. There is some serious antipathy towards unions in this country, and for real reasons. These folks should start to see that, and not just base their support on something because all the cool liberals are doing it.
And they shouldn't couch this one event in terms of "losing" and "winning." Just because the GOP gets their legislation now doesn't mean that policy can't change later. You just have to remain vigilant and involved. If you fail to acheive your objectives here, you have to reevaluate and try again later. Once you do acheive your objectives, you must always seek to improve them. In a representative republic, we don't just get to enjoy one legislative battle and then luxuriously never revisit the issue.
Because, when it comes to unions, there is an awful lot of self-improvement that could take place.
I'm from the South, so it ain't like I've had a lot of experience with unions, even though I was in one for a year. A public employees union at that. Despite even active participation in said union, I am at a loss to figure out what that union did for me as a worker. Or for any of my co-workers, for that matter. I am at a loss to figure out what value that union added to the local area, whose public schools had experienced decades of decline and neglect.
Apparently, I was paying dues so some national-level union administrators could have snazzy lunches with congressfolk, and some local-level union administrators could throw cookouts. I also guess that, if anything had happened to me, the union might appoint some local and well connected lawyer to my case, if I didn't have the wherewithal to get one on my own. They could have just called the union I was in "legal troubles insurance." That's how membership was sold to me, after all. Though I never could find out how that would have worked. I also didn't quite trust the track record, since the union watched as 5,000+ employees were summarily dismissed once upon a time, and not one thing could be done about it.
This is all in spite of the fact that I knew some very spirited and sincere individuals who worked for that union. But that's to be expected. After all, I am from the South, and we've got a lot of spirited and sincere people here. Whatever civic or private organizations we create, there are going to be those people - just like there will be bad people. That's just the nature of things.
Despite the fact that I'm a "liberal,"* I'm a Southern liberal, and we tend to focus more on race than collective bargaining. To collectively bargain, after all, you have to accept some semblance of equality in the collective. And corporate interests didn't even have to divide us down here before we were conquered, we generally handled that for them ahead of time.
* (Roughly defined, by both "liberals" and "conservatives" as "anyone who doesn't agree with the most right-wing utopian thought processes.")