The news is full of the Wisconsin showdown, where the governor and the GOP dominated legislature want to strip the right to bargain collectively from teachers and public employees, except for police and firefighters.
There are a lot of odd aspects to the governor’s case. It’s odd that one side, known as “the State of Wisconsin,” can bargain collectively, but the other side, composed of a subset of citizens of the same state, cannot. When the State of Wisconsin seeks a supplier for, say, asphalt for highways, it bargains as a collective, does it not? It collectively represents the interest of the people of Wisconsin.
And of course, most likely it bargains all the time as a collective with a different collective, a corporation. For example, the government of the state of Wisconsin bargains with Sodhexo corp. for food services at the State House. Sodhexo is a collective: a legal person created to represent the interests of the shareholders. That’s collective bargaining: two collective entities representing two different interests. The Coca-Cola corporation is not a person: you can’t shake its hand or look it in the eye. It’s a collective, like Sodhexo or the NFL or Apple. These collectives, corporations all, are the very core of modern capitalism.
Clearly, “collective bargaining” per se is not the issue here, in that the State is a collective: it bargains all the time in the interests of the people of Wisconsin, whom it represents. And the Governor’s measure specifically exempts firefighters and police unions. They can still bargain collectively, but schoolteachers, sewer and maintenance workers, garbage collectors, park employees–they can’t. It’s not about “collective bargaining,” which clearly is at the very heart of the capitalist enterprise. It’s about granting the right selectively.
And how is that Constitutional?