Democratic legislators in Wisconsin are not in Wisconsin this week. They have been on the run from a Republican majority intent on stripping state workers of their right to collective bargaining. Tea-party-fueled Republican majorities in other Midwestern states have similar union-busting bills in the works. It is easy to dismiss the collective bargaining rights of state workers as someone else’s problem, but it is anything but someone else’s problem.
This is not an isolated issue. The tea-party regularly advances an anti-human-rights agenda that masquerades as “fiscal responsibility.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which the United States ratified in 1948, enumerates rights to which people are entitled by virtue of the fact that they are breathing. The further down the list one reads, the greater the cause for alarm becomes.
With regard to the news from Wisconsin, everyone is supposed to be entitled to freedom of association and to belong to trade unions. The point of trade unions is to maintain decent working conditions for members. This includes things like wages, holidays, pensions and health insurance. Workers would not have these things today, were it not for the rise of trade unions and collective bargaining in the 1920s. Union-busting, one of the radical right’s favorite strategies, has prominent proponents in the corporate world. Consider that the fastest way to lose one’s job at Wal-Mart is to utter the words “labor union” at work.
Article 25 of the Declaration says, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” There is no mention of people getting this right if their neighbors are willing to pay their fair share to ensure it. “Everyone” means exactly that.
TP-backed Republican majorities use budget woes (that they created) to whittle away at these rights, because their corporate masters, who put them in office, want them to do so. Thus, they claim that it is unconstitutional and unfair to require everyone to maintain health insurance and for insurance companies to take all comers. Everyone should pay their own way, without regard to whether or not they want to, and insurance companies should not get to decide who gets medical care and who does not.
Article 26 entitles everyone to education. Education is one of the most-cut items in TP-backed Republican budgets. Well educated people are not easily led astray, a good reason for the corporate world not to promote public education. Article 29 states in part, that “Everyone has duties to the community. . .” Again, “everyone” does not mean only those who feel like fulfilling their duties. However, if people believe that shouldering their share of the burden is unjust, the corporate world will not have to pay its fair share. Hence, TP Republicans talk of “tax relief.” Remember, corporations have the rights of people. If they have to pay taxes, they want relief. That is, relief for them, paid for by everyone else.
The TP agenda calls for abolishing Social Security and making Medicare into a form of private health insurance (Doyle McManus). Again, the issue is couched in terms that sound reasonable as long as no one thinks about them. Since such plans include not collecting Social Security taxes from present wage earners, it becomes apparent that the intent is to starve those who have lived beyond their wage-earning years. Those who have supported their elders for their entire working lives are simply out of luck.
The TP agenda undermines the dike that holds back indentured servitude and serfdom. Removing the right of workers to ask for fair wages is part of a strategy that provides the greatest profit for the fewest while making the greatest number of people pay for it. It is not about “responsibility,” fiscal or otherwise. It is, in fact, the grossest form of irresponsibility.