The UAW protested Mitt Romney at the Daytona 500 this past Sunday. They flew a banner above the stadium that read “Mitt Romney: Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” This labor union, boasting nearly 400,000 active members and about 600,000 retired members, planned this response to a 2008 NY Times Op-Ed that Romney wrote titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
Well, they are creative.
In Romney’s 2008 article, he addressed the slow death of America’s automobile industry by union hegemony. He outlined his capitalistic solutions, including lowering the burden per auto of domestic manufacturers compared to their foreign competitors by reducing retiree benefits and hourly pay. Romney wrote that this burden costs averages $2,000 per auto for domestic makers such as Ford.
That’s right-- $2,000 for every car that comes off the assembly line. That number is staggering because of the sheer disadvantage domestic auto makers’ face. As someone who works in the private sector, I think twice before utilizing wireless service offered by most airlines while in flight. That $10 will be an unnecessary expense my company will accrue, and I usually don’t make the purchase.
I’m happy to travel sans Wi-Fi. Even though I am only one of 3,000 employees at my company, I know that my cost savings helps us stay competitive in the volatile marketplace, thus keeping us in business and lengthening my career.
We’ve seen enough news coverage in the last eight months to know what exists in the die-hard union member’s soul. We know what drives them, and it’s not enterprise differentiation or corporate competitiveness on the global market. I certainly don’t want to re-hash how we know this—a simple Google search will afford enough material for hours of arduous reading. But what I do want to explore is the fundamental driver behind the union uproar that has pitted family members, friends and employees against one another…
In Wisconsin, the liberal, union supporters have taken every opportunity to protest Governor Scott Walker and his Act 10 “union busting bill.” He stripped collective bargaining rights from public-sector unions and hell hath no fury like a union member losing his exorbitant benefits. They protested at a Special Olympics event where the Governor gave the opening remarks—at one point blocking the view of the participants to the stage. They routinely threaten the Governor’s family outside of their private residence, trashed the state capitol building during their “peace protest,” propagandized school children by busing them to the capital during the school day, and neglected their teaching responsibilities by submitting fake doctor’s notes to school administrators in order to protest alongside university students. Union members and their federal sponsors are currently raising millions of dollars on five state-wide recall campaigns (I use “campaigns” loosely since Donald Duck was allowed to sign the petitions), and on the list goes.
How irritating. Greasy college students who created a human peace sign in the center of the capitol's rotunda and strapping duct tape across their mouths is enough to irritate a monk in a cenobite community.
Is THIS what it takes to ignite interest, passion and motivation amongst Americans? Is THIS what people care about? Let's be honest what THIS fight is about: whether public sector union members should be allowed to collectively bargain for unprecedented levels of benefits, perks and salaries, paid for by the state's taxpayers, and to what extent unions should have authority over the financial decisions within their local communities.
THIS has kindled the flame long dormant. Cries of "democracy!" and "justice!" and "human rights!" have flowed from the lips of tens of thousands of people-- not just in Wisconsin. Elementary school teachers, spouses of teachers, children of union employees, college students, law enforcement officers and many other groups of people came alive. Over benefits. Over salaries. Over paid-time off. Over union dues. Over their money and what’s more, that money that drives power.
Where are the protesters crying foul because of the historical (and expedited) spending binge of government? We cannot continue to spend like trust fund teenagers with a credit card while cutting spending with dull scissors. We are on an unsustainable path, and our children and grandchildren will bear the burden.
Where are the teachers walking off campuses and school yards in a sign of solidarity for the students? The U.S. Department of Education spent approximately $77 billion on education in 2011 alone, but in most major cities across the country, less than half of all children graduate high school.
Where are the protesters storming their state capitol buildings, demanding that the government stop federal funding to Planned Parenthood, who has been caught numerous times advising self-addressed sex traffickers and accepting donations targeted towards aborting African American babies?
Where are the national lobbying groups protesting in our nation’s capital because our President cannot seem to find the word "terrorist" in his vocabulary, all the while he and his administration ignore the growing threat of multiculturalism and radical Islam? We wouldn't want to offend Muslims. We can't speak about homegrown terrorism because we don't want to play into al Qaeda's hands (No really, Sheila Jackson Lee says so).
Instead, tens of thousands of hard-working Americans choose to record American Idol and forgo the bag of potato chips for three weeks so they can speak their peace about their right to bargain with sympathetic school boards and administrators for plush retirement packages.
It's going to take more than these words from our generation if we want to right the wrongs. We are at a tipping point, and it's time for us to be the next "Greatest Generation." It will require much more than caring about issues that directly affect our weekly paychecks. We need collective sacrifice more than collective bargaining rights. And I'm not referring to Obama's connotation of sacrifice; we will need to sacrifice our time, our energy and (gasp) our money if we want to steer this ship to the right course once again. We will only have this Republic as long as we (read: you and me) keep it.
What will you do?
Monica Frede authored this article and works together with Ed Willing on the board of Founders Intent. Reprinted with permission of FI and the author.