On Leadership
Video | PostLeadership | FedCoach | | Books | About |
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Amy Fraher
Scholar/Military leader

Amy Fraher

Amy L. Fraher is a retired Navy Commander and Aviator,Director of the International Team Training Center at San Diego Miramar College. Her book Thinking Through Crises comes out Spring 2011

Unions, the government's low-hanging fruit

Question: Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin continues to demand an end to collective bargaining rights for state employees even after winning their agreement on the benefit reductions he sought. These are the same state employees he must rely on to operate state government and implement his policies. How should he strike the balance between the urgent need to restore the state's fiscal health and his longer-term challenge of leading a large governmental enterprise?

When considering the actions of governmental leaders in Indiana, Wisconsin, New Jersey and other states to destroy labor unions and roll back employee wage and benefits contracts, and the general public's support for these actions, there seems to be a collective amnesia about the reason there are labor unions in the first place: To protect workers from exactly these types of managerial strategies. It is in management's nature to seek fiscal cuts. Labor is simply the low-hanging fruit.

The question on my mind is why many average Americans are allowing this to happen? It is no secret that union membership, and therefore labor union bargaining leverage, has been in decline in recent years. One only need examine the current state of commercial airlines or the automotive industry to find evidence of labor's loss of power and influence in the private sector. Now we have evidence from the public sector as well. Why is this happening?

Fewer Americans are union members, particularly younger people, and therefore many know little about the hard-fought history of these organizations. The last few years of high unemployment and mortgage foreclosure have left many Americans struggling, feeling they're in a desperate place. Many young people are yet to find their first jobs, and have no intention of staying at the same one for a 20, 30 or 40 year career, as people often did in the past.

Unfortunately, rather than supporting the choice of those unionized Americans who do want to make this sort of commitment, many people would rather eliminate this option altogether in a 'share the pain' approach to recent economic challenges. In other words, rather than hoping the best for others, they would rather share with them the worst--no pensions, no work rules, no health benefits, no seniority. It is in management's nature to seek fiscal cuts. It's up to the rest of us, union and non-union members alike, to resist these types of radical changes to our ways of work. Union can't do it on their own, they need America's support.

By Amy Fraher

 |  February 28, 2011; 5:21 PM ET
Category:  Economic crisis , Government leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Gov. Walker is overreaching on some solutions | Next: Walker must win hands down


Please report offensive comments below.

zillow just reported that 27% of mortgages are for MORE THAN THE HOUSE IS WORTH! i have not been able to ascertain the ratio for wisconsin nor if wisconsin had a boom in residential real estate followed by a bust, taxes that pay for teachers are tolerable when homes go up in value, and then questionable when home values go the other way and the commute costs skyrocket! add in neighbors who are staying put because the courts are stalling the banks from evicting them (but for how long?), children who are not being counted as unemployed because they have stayed in college longer or gone back for a masters degree but are facing uncertainty when they have to return to the work force state workers look like they have it made! goverment workers and people who were going to college did not get with private sector unions to stop nafta, it did not pertain to them just as our intervention in iraq a country that had no nukes and did not attack us on 911 2002 did not pertain to alot of people because we no longer have a draft. now we have little manufacturing and the costs of empire are draining us dry. will the repubs go after the military? i hope so but i am not holding my breath...

Posted by: oldnotgiftedandwhite | March 6, 2011 10:39 AM
Report Offensive Comment

"Votingrevolution1" apparently has some hatred for unions which he/she is attempting to articulate in this forum. Rather than flag his comments as offensive, I would rather the readers of this well written and articulate column inspired such ire. "...should never have let public workers unionize". First of all, you do not work there so what makes you think you have the right to tell the workers they cannot form a union? Do they have the right to enter your workplace and set rules as to what you can or cannot do?
One of the strangest positions that the republican/tea party/conservative crowd takes is their right to dictate the limits and range of the rights of others. Can you explain this phenomena?

Posted by: coach777b | March 2, 2011 6:32 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Thank you! Its so nice to hear someone who gets it!

Posted by: rc95959 | March 1, 2011 3:03 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Should of NEVER let 'public'workers unionize.This isn't about fairness,it's about these over paid and over benefited Union workers that don't want the taxpayers golden eggs to stop rolling to them.Problem is, these incredibly greedy Unions(along with the cradle to the grave Democrats} are killing the goose that lays them. And they have a NERVE to say Tea party protest are bad and ugly."for the times they ARE a changing".....And thank you Gov Walker!!!!!!!

Posted by: votingrevolution1 | March 1, 2011 1:09 PM
Report Offensive Comment

If I were Scott Walker's mom, I would sit him down, slap him silly, cut off all his allowances, no TV for a year, make him eat cat food, slap him silly again and sternly tell him DON'T BE BULLY, BE NICE TO OTHERS.

Posted by: hemisphere | March 1, 2011 12:40 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Well said. People are so fickle and have such short attention spans. It would appear they have forgotten who and what actually contributed to our economic decline. Why they would want to punish workers and take away their rights while giving a free pass to CEOs and the banks is simply mind boggling. Scapegoating middle class workers is not going to fix what is wrong with us, but it will make the problem worse.

Posted by: JKJ88 | March 1, 2011 11:58 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Definitely the most thought out post. Let's all hope America wakes up to realize that the only way to progress is to consolidate the gains we have made as a society and work to do better not give up the fair and just acheivements just because we are facing some hardship at the moment. If we did so we will just be playing into the hands of CEO's of corporate america who would love to have a workforce fighting each other for the meager crumbs they throw at them.

Posted by: shrestbin | March 1, 2011 11:50 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Hear, hear!

Posted by: Badwisky | March 1, 2011 11:20 AM
Report Offensive Comment

of the "leaders" posts, yours appears to be the most well thought out.

Posted by: perryrants | March 1, 2011 10:49 AM
Report Offensive Comment

I first worked with 123 mortgage refi more than a year and recently I refinanced my loan, again with 123. Both times I scoured the field for other options, and I found no-one better than 123. The process was very professional and straight forward; all estimates were in writing.

Posted by: nancydavis573 | March 1, 2011 2:36 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Post a Comment

characters remaining

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company