As we have been talking of late about the rare chance to fund HSR and other new Passenger Rail projects, and of the need to hold our collective taxpayer bladder and keep from pissing it away, I thought a comment or two about Wisconsin, the power of the people, and the power of labor unions would be in order.
First, I applaud Wisconsin Gov. Walker for taking a stand on spending money the state doesn't have on rail projects. They've waited this long and they can wait a little longer. A compromise wherein the state perhaps spends some money on planning - including a detailed study of costs and maybe even a 20-year projection as to ridership - wouldn't be out of the question.
Notice how Gov. Walker has enough political power to do this. Passenger Rail protesters haven't packed the state capitol or called the governor a fascist. The people of Wisconsin elected Gov. Walker and the Republicans in the statehouse to do a job, and they are trying their damndest to do it. EVEN THOUGH railroads are typically unionized, I didn't see organized labor on the capitol steps either.
But let the same Republican take a step that looks like union busting, and all hell breaks loose.
So a lesson, if you will. Make that A LESSON!!!
Political power that comes from the ballot box is how this country was set up. But political power that comes from money and influence is always there. As The People, we can do one of three things with that, none of which will make everyone happy all of the time.
First, we can let it take over, as Gov. Walker is determined not to do in Wisconsin, but as it has done in the federal Executive Branch. This is either bad, or - at best - so-so for everyone. Bad for the general populace, the vast majority of whom are not union members, and so-so for union members. Why so-so? Anyone who has ever been a union member will tell you that the rank and file many times gets treated just as badly by the union leadership as it does by management.
Second, we can fight it. This is a so-so result for all. Collective bargaining and the labor movement have done a lot of good things in this country, and they can do a lot more in the right settings. I am thinking that public-sector labor is not one of those settings. When a public-sector laborer - I'm not talking first responders - gets paid more than a private-sector laborer in the same job, things "jest ain't right."
Third, and this may be anathema to some conservatives, we can live with it. Just like we didn't vote for Mr. Obama to take advantage of a crisis and change the face of America, we didn't vote for conservatives to do the same. If Gov. Walker needs to flex some muscle to get the Dems back to the bargaining table, so be it. But please don't ram through conservative changes that are just as radical as the changes that Mr. Obama has tried to make to the American political landscape.
What does this mean for Passenger Rail? I didn't agree with the last Bush any more than I agree with the Last Obama. You can't completely cut off a mode of transportation from government support any more than you can cut off a proven method of keeping wages and working conditions fair for some workers. And yet, you can't just throw away money on either. Let's hope Gov. Walker has the intelligence to see that where both labor strife and rail funding are concerned.
Can I have an Amen?
© 2011 - C. A. Turek - firstname.lastname@example.org