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The battle against workers continues apace. Ohio is considering an
anti-union bill that would strip public sector workers of the right
collectively bargain and to strike. But what's perhaps more interesting
are the actions of the governor of Maine this week. Republican Governor
Paul Le Page took a far more symbolic move against workers when he
ordered a mural to removed from the department of labor. The mural,
which depicted the struggles of organized labor, was removed on the
grounds that the labor department was not an "appropriate venue," to
discuss the history of worker's rights. Apparently the labor department
needs to be less concerned with labor. This illustrates a more
troubling aspect of the current wave of anti-unionism sweeping through
GOP controlled state houses. By depicting public sector unions as
greedy special interests getting in the way of our prosperity, the GOP
are perversely arguing that the only interest group worthy of
government attention is business. The main thrust of their narrative -
that nurses, teachers and state employees are interest groups while
businesses are not - is of course, utter nonsense. Any group that
lobbies the government to seek a favorable legislative outcome is an
interest group. Business organizations do this all the time. So, if and
when the GOP does succeed in eviscerating workers organizations, they
are not removing special interests from the legislative process.
Rather, they are whittling down the effective interests to the one that
most often supports their party. Competition among interest groups is
not something we should be trying to stop. On the contrary. It is in
fact, the way our democracy works. Whether or not you think unions are
the best way to organize a labor market, this attack on the political
capacities of American workers should be a concern for anyone
interested in the health of our system.

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May 2011
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