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OKG Newsletter

Letters to the Editor

Attack corporate welfare, not unions

Larry Stem March 16th, 2011

Regarding Jason Reese’s Commentary “Can it happen here?” in the March 2 Oklahoma Gazette: Yes, it can, and the sooner the better!

Here in Oklahoma, home of Gov. Mary Fallin and Republican House and Senate majorities, the working stiff has been bullied enough by the rich and the chamber of commerce, and looted by corporate welfare in the name of “jobs” — mostly minimum wage, nonunion and no retirement or insurance-type jobs.

This must stop, and judging by the turnout at the Capitol recently, people are starting to wake up to this fact and demand their equality to the privileged.

The belt-tightening needs to start with the corporate welfare culture that people like Reese represent and trumpet. There are billions of dollars right here going to corporations that already made huge profits while state teachers, firefighters, police and others are supposed to dig deep and make up these obscene giveaways when the budget falls short.

Collective bargaining is not the problem. The state would have plenty of money for paying state workers — some of the worst-paid in the country — if it made corporations and the rich pay their fair share. With the chamber-dominated, Oklahoman-publicized and Chesapeake/ Devon-paid-for Legislature and governor, this is not going to happen.

The legislative power of the purse was not meant to bring a race to the bottom for wages. The Founding Fathers could not have imagined a corporate takeover of the government and bought-and-paidfor legislators who do not have the voters’ best interests in mind.

Unions are the only way a person can ask for, and expect, a living wage, meaning the basics: a home, a car, a couple of kids and the money for bills, insurance and, someday, a retirement. No corporation or Republican Legislature is going to happily give away a dime more to the working man that it has to. This is money that the titans of industry lard their pockets with, and so far, the corporate propagandists and mouthpieces like Reese have convinced Oklahomans that this somehow is in their best interests.

When your child’s classroom is overcrowded, if your kid has special needs or is disabled, when you have to wait 30 minutes for a cop or fire truck, then you will see the need for an expanded group of “state workers” and not begrudge them a living wage. Unions and collective bargaining are the only way this will happen, and people should turn out as they have in Wisconsin and Ohio, and demand unions, benefits and their rights.

Any lawmaker voting any other way needs to be rewarded with pink slips.

—Larry Stem
Oklahoma City

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03.16.2011 at 08:30 Reply

In my time I have worked for 2 different unions.  The first did nothing to my benefit, and the second I actually ended up creating.  So I have a unique perspective on this situation.


First off, let’s be fair.  Unions are not always good.  For starters, I don’t believe that anyone putting lug nuts on a car should be making more then $25,000 a year plus benefits.  But in reality they make a LOT more than that because of a union.  But by the same token, I don’t think school teachers need to be so under paid that they need a second job.  I also hate the fact that unions can force a business to promote an inept employee simply because they have seniority.  That’s insanity!  In any business, you want the most competent person for the job, not a dull crayon who gets a free ride because they have hung around the longest.


So there are situations where a union is necessary and others where it is a burden.  The problem is figuring out what the market can handle.  Because negotiating for wages beyond what’s reasonable is nothing short of blackmail, and in the case of government workers, the burden is put on the tax payer. 


And that’s really a bigger issue. 


Governments are notorious for being stupid when it comes to their money.  But a lot of that stems from the corporations whom significantly overcharge the government for their services because they want a nice fat government contract.   So in my opinion the financial abuse starts at the corporate level which often does not have unions.  And there is your trade off.  You either line the pockets of a greedy corporation which does not support unions, or you have your own unionized government employees who will consume the same amount of financial resources.  The latter of which would have the stronger benefit on the economy because wealthy tend to hoard their cash, or lock it into markets which are not always domestic, while the unionized workers spend their paychecks domestically, and save very little which is obviously better for our local economy.


So there is an issue where by having a “big government” is sometimes more beneficial to the people, but again, this must be tempered with fair wages.  Fair meaning that it’s relative to what the private sector can offer.  When government relies on the private sector for its day to day workings, those companies will cut every possible corner to be profitable, simply because those companies have shareholders to answer to.  In government, the shareholders are tax payers, and we do not ask that our government be profitable, we really just want it to break even consistently every year.  So it’s no surprise that those on the right want to push government jobs to their profiteering friends, while people on the left want those jobs to remain by-the-people and for-the-people.  One solution lines the pockets of the wealthy few; the other gives the same amount to the many poor/middle class.  And to quote a man devoted to logic, “the needs of the many out weight the needs of the few, or the one.”


These are just a few factors to consider.  Bargaining rights are sometimes essential, and sometimes a burden.  Somewhere in the middle there needs to be a point where the two sides meet.  But like our two party political system, both sides feels it’s “my way or the highway”, and that hasn’t been working very efficiently for decades.  So I hate to be a pessimist.  But I think we’re all screwed.