Today We Are All Wisconsinites

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.
(Abraham Lincoln, from his message to the U.S. Congress of Dec. 3, 1861)

Are you aware that today Madison, Wis., looks sort of like Cairo did last week?

Thousands and thousands—estimates run from 10,000 to 30,000—of people are in the streets this week in protest of a proposed bill to elminate most collective bargaining rights for public sector unions.

Have you seen a bunch of press coverage on this wonderful mess? Noes?

Labor in these Untied States of America has been so successfully marginalized that you don’t even hear about it unless you specifically go out to look for it. Lookit your local newspaper sometime. Here’s the “business” section. Where’s the “labor” section? Why don’t major strikes make the news here anymore?

Even the Huffington Post has remained mum on this story. In fact, the only media guy who’s spent any kind of time on Wisconsin is Ed Schultz. Matter of fact, Eddie will report from Madison on his show this evening (10 p.m. eastern on MSNBC).

Labor has been so marginalized that it isn’t even newsworthy anymore. Believe it or not, once upon a time if there was a major strike here in these Untied States, it was in the newspaper and on the TV. This thing in Wisconsin has been going on a week, and it’s barely registered a blip.

Allow me for a moment to explain something to you about organized labor: The primary objective of organized labor is to tighten supply.

You think labor fought for a 40-hour work week because labor likes puppies and really gives a crap about you having a weekend? You think they wanted child labor laws because they cared whether Johnny was free to go study his algebra? No. They wanted these things because organized labor’s primary objective is to tighten the labor market.

Why? Because a tighter labor market boosts the value of labor and drives wages.

If Wisconsin blows up the right of its public sector employees to bargain collectively, it also blows their ability to tighten supply. Wages can freeze and shrink; 40-hour weeks can become a thing of the past. The net result of whatever comes of such a combustion is that the value of work takes a hit.

Unless you can go longer than a year without a paycheck, you should have your antenna trained on Madison, and you should be rooting for those people in the streets. They are not just fighting for their own jobs. They’re fighting for yours, too.

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