Broken World, Current Events — February 18, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Should Christians Care About Unions?

by

More than 30,000 demonstrators have descended on the Wisconsin Statehouse, two days in a row, to protest Governor Scott Walker’s decision to severely restrict the collective bargaining rights of most public employee unions. The proposed bill would make it illegal for unions to use healthcare benefits and their pension funds as bargaining chips; only leaving discussions about actual wages on the table for negotiation.

In response to this controversial move, 14 Democratic State Senators fled into the neighboring state of Illinois — beyond the reach of Wisconsin State troopers dispatched by Governor Walker — in order to block the Republican-majority legislature from voting on the Governor’s proposal.

Most states have a constitutional mandate to balance their own budgets. Wisconsin is no exception.

In one sense, Governor Walker is simply meeting his gubernatorial obligations to make tough decisions in the face of his state’s $137 million budget shortfall. Even if he were a Democrat, with a Republican legislature it’s unlikely he would have the political capital or public support necessary to cover Wisconsin’s budget shortfall through tax increases alone. Spending cuts are really the only option on the table.

However, for the Governor to use the budget debate as an excuse to advance a pet political cause –- namely, busting public employee unions — is opportunistic at best (and that’s being charitable). Protecting collective bargaining rights for workers is not only critical to the existence of unions; it is foundational to creating an environment where economic opportunity and social mobility is possible for everyone else.

America first learned these lessons the hard way in the 19th Century, an age where massive economic inequality and social upheaval pit factory owners against workers unable to provide for their families — let alone hope for any sort of social mobility — often with tragic consequences. Violent employer crackdowns on striking workers eventually forced the U.S. government to intervene, officially legalizing unions.

In addition to eliminating pension and healthcare discussions as almost universally upheld union bargaining chips, Governor Walker’s bill would require public union employees to cover 5.8 percent of their pension costs and 12 percent of their healthcare premiums. While these concessions are not necessarily unreasonable in light of the state’s requirement to balance the budget, they’re problematic for a few reasons.

1) This isn’t really about the budget; it’s about union-busting

Governor Walker’s proposal is not the result of tough-minded, but good faith, negotiations with the unions. Rather, it is a unilateral act that not only hurts these employees in the short-term, but eliminates the one avenue they have traditionally relied on for negotiations about these kind of cuts, and will continue to rely upon in the future.

As former Wisconsin Congressman David Obey told Talking Points Memo yesterday, Governor Walker’s decision is more fitting for a third-world dictator like Hosni Mubarak than a United States’ governor:

“I think what Governor Walker is trying to do amounts to political thuggery. It is one thing to say that these are tough times — everybody’s got to cut back and public employees are going to have to take cuts like the rest of us … but he’s using it as an excuse to gut the ability of workers to organize and bargain collectively. In my view that’s outrageous.”

Picking up on these themes in today’s Washington Post E.J. Dionne remarked:

This isn’t just about budgets — or even primarily about budgets. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is drumming up a crisis to change the very nature of the relationship between public workers and the government. He would strip their unions of their bargaining rights on everything except wages… Whether you think the second is good policy or not, it essentially renders collective bargaining meaningless. Why shouldn’t this be seen as a Republican governor and a Republican legislature looking for a way to strike a political blow against allies of the other party — and using budget issues as an excuse?

2) Governor Walker is selectively picking winners and losers

When President Obama chose to continue Bush’s policy of bailing out a bankrupt General Motors — holding its hand through the bankruptcy and restructuring process, while providing the financial backing it needed to stay afloat — Republicans lambasted the Administration for “picking winners and losers”.

If Governor Walker is so concerned about balancing Wisconsin’s budget, why are police and firefighters unions selectively spared from his executive fiat, while teachers, nurses and other public workers are denied collective bargaining rights? Wouldn’t the state also experience savings by including police and fighter-fighters in this bill?

Not only does this smack of hypocrisy — Republicans cannot credibly critique Obama for picking winners and losers in the private sector, when they do the same with regards to specific unions — it undermines the Governor’s ability to position himself as an honest broker of already difficult conversations about Wisconsin’s fiscal future.

3) Christians should care about what’s happening in Wisconsin.

As Christians, let’s not forget that Martin Luther King Jr. was not assassinated in 1968 during a Civil Rights march; he was killed in Memphis, Tennessee, while in town supporting a strike organized by the black sanitation workers union, A.F.S.C.M.E. Local 1733. That this also happened to be the local chapter of the very same union Governor Walker aspires to unravel in his own state is not without a sense of historical irony.

Add to this the compounding irony that the national union benefitting these sanitation workers was originally founded in Wisconsin in 1938; what started as the “Wisconsin State Administrative, Clerical, Fiscal and Technical Employees Association” would eventually grow to become the second largest union in the country.

The night before Dr. King met the assassins bullet in Memphis, he preached what would go down as one of the most important sermons of his entire career: I’ve been to the Mountain Top. In addition to hauntingly prophetic allusions to his own death, he reflected on the state of the world in light of the theological commitments that marked his life:

Something is happening in Memphis; something is happening in our world.

And you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?” I would take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God’s children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn’t stop there. …

… Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee — the cry is always the same: “We want to be free.”

Finally, after reminding his audience of the specifics of the Memphis sanitation worker’s strike, Dr. King invoked the parable of the Good Samaritan, laying down the gauntlet for his fellow Christians assembled that night:

…The first question that the [religious man]… asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

That’s the question before you tonight. Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job. Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?” The question is not, “If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?” The question is, “If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?” That’s the question.

Dr. King’s message on the eve of his death is echoed in Pope Benedict XVI’s recent admonition to Christians (hat-tip: Duane Shank at Sojourners) reminding them of the moral imperative to uphold the rights of workers (from Benedict’s 2009 Encyclical, Caritas In Veritate):

“… budgetary policies, with cuts in social spending often made under pressure from international financial institutions, can leave citizens powerless in the face of old and new risks; such powerlessness is increased by the lack of effective protection on the part of workers’ associations. Through the combination of social and economic change, trade union organizations experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers, partly because Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labour unions. Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum, for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past …”

12 Comments

  • Chris,

    great article. you have always been able to articulate your thoughts better than most people, so thank you for your effort here.

    I was wondering if you could clarify something for me. I grew up in Wisconsin and now live in Texas. These two states, as I’m sure you know, have practiced vastly different political policies in my lifetime. In Wisconsin, I enjoyed the benefits of it’s impeccable public education system, infrastructure (the roads down here are marginal at best in comparison) and decent environmental record.

    Texas is the opposite. But this last year they created thousands of new jobs and have a budget surplus (I know this point is debated, but we’ll grant the state’s general economic health for the sake of discussion). The first 3 years down here my wife was a full time teacher. She made larger contributions to her retirement than Wisconsin teachers are being asked to and paid 25% of her health care premium. When we added me to her coverage, we paid 100% of the premium. We never thought to be angry about this because it’s all we knew.

    I guess my point and is that it seems like the problem in Wisconsin is simply that you can’t have your cake and eat. They didn’t reelect Feingold (which blew my mind) and Doyle was all but ousted, and now the state is upset that a republican is being a republican.

    A friend recently invited me to join an anti scott walker type of facebook group. As a christian this seems off to me. Yes I agree that kingdom concerns spill over in political policy making, but it strikes me that Jesus was anti much of anything. He wasn’t anti Roman, anti pontius pilate, anti judas iscariot … I would even argue that he wasn’t anti pharisee. Jesus was for the poor, the oppressed and I would argue, as much as it pains us to hear, for the rich who live in a different type of poverty.

    So my question would be what exactly is Christian solution to a state (double entendre intended here) problem like this? Yes poor working conditions enforced by powerful political thugs is sin. but so is (I think) 130 million dollars of debt.

  • ps i think the former WI congressman you cite is Dave Obey. I know because he was mine :)

  • Carney! Great to hear from you. It’s been an super long time. Hope you and your family are doing well.

    A couple thoughts, in no particular order:

    1) Thanks for catching the typo with regards to David Obey. My uncle is Pete Obey. Obviously, I slipped. :)

    2) Texas is one of eleven states that does not allow public unions to negotiate over pensions or health benefits, which is why you and your wife were required to pony-up, or be left without health insurance.

    Following WWII, Federal and State governments generally rewarded people choosing to go into public service fields — nursing, teaching, policing, fire-fighting, etc. — with better benefits (healthcare, education, pensions, etc.) because these fields generally paid less.

    The findings of a recent joint-study of the Center for State and Local Government Excellence and the National Institute on Retirement Security shows that this is still the case. Among the findings:

    - Wages and salaries of state and local employees are lower than those for private sector workers with comparable earnings determinants (e.g., education). State employees typically earn 11 percent less; local workers earn 12 percent less.

    - Over the last 20 years, the earnings for state and local employees have generally declined relative to comparable private sector employees.

    In spite of the fact that Texas has been notoriously unfriendly to public unions, it too faces a massive $27 billion (that’s billion, not million) budget short-fall for the upcoming fiscal year. So, I’m not sure how helpful it is to link Texas’ relative economic health to the fact that it embraces severe restrictions on collective bargaining rights, especially when the state is actually in worse shape than Wisconsin by this measure.

    3) A bit of interesting Wisconsin history trivia: Compare Governor Walker’s agenda — and the agenda of much of the Republican party these days — with another famous Wisconsin Governor, Robert LaFollette.

    When LaFollette eventually ran for President, “his platform called for government ownership of the railroads and electric utilities, cheap credit for farmers, the outlawing of child labor, stronger laws to help labor unions, more protection of civil liberties, an end to American imperialism in Latin America, and a referendum before any president could again lead the nation into war.” (hat-tip: Wikipedia)

    4) I’m completely on board with the idea that Christians should follow Jesus’ example in defining ourselves by what we are for rather than what we are against. This should be just as true for our private lives and relationships as for when we enter the public square.

    Sadly, in the realm of public policy, when political leaders make decisions there are almost always winners and losers. I’m not saying that Governor Walker is a bad person, but for him to win this particular battle means that public workers across Wisconsin lose. It also means that if Walker wins this particular fight workers in many other states likely to follow Wisconsin’s example will lose.

    I don’t envy the position Governor Walker is in (though, through his remarks, I get the sense he actually relishes this opportunity to stick it to the unions). I’m also not against Governor Walker’s need to make tough choices to close the $137 million hole in Wisconsin’s budget.

    This would be a much different situation if the Governor were to sit down at the table with unions to directly negotiate terms that make sense in light of Wisconsin’s budget deficit, as is the common practice even among most Republican Governors (or at least it has been.

    The problem is that, not only is he NOT doing this (he’s simply dictating the terms for future healthcare and pension benefits) he’s also making it illegal for the unions to negotiate on these points, both NOW and in the future.

    5) You’re right to point out that massive debt — whether held by individuals or governments — is ethically problematic. I would go so far as to call it immoral.

    That being said, there’s a reason why almost every state in America is facing massive deficits this year. But it’s important to look at the true culprit. In this case, it has little to do with public unions and far more to do with the effect of Wall Street and the banking sector’s collapse two years ago on America’s economy, and by extension people’s income, and (finally) on state income-tax receipts.

    America’s banks and Wall Street have rebounded, posting record profits this past year. American workers — both public and private sector — have not. Thus, the massive shortfalls. So speaking of immoral, wouldn’t you say that it’s at least ethically problematic that the institutions that got America into our current economic mess are posting record profits while small and mid-size businesses and state and local governments must lay people off?

    For example, I have a friend who works for a Wall Street bank whose total assets have doubled from $500 billion five years ago to over $1 trillion today (that’s trillion, not billion or million). When I asked him how his bank made that money, he said, “we bet against the housing market at the right time.” To that I responded, “Your company didn’t just bet against the market; your company SHORTED the market. With $500 billion to play around with, your company made sure it’s bet came true.” My friend just smiled, and nodded.

    6) I’m not some sort of neo-theocratic, closet liberation theologian with aspirations to see social gospel views imposed on America. I resonate with folks like Stanley Hauerwas and Greg Boyd who argue that the American church has been too involved in politics — the realm of “Caesar” — in recent decades, though I think they both go too far.

    Bottom line: I believe that the biblical narrative bears out the idea that nations are judged by God, not only according to measures of personal piety, but according to how the nation’s rulers, judges, and even business leaders, treat workers, widows, orphans, aliens and those at the margins of society.

    In fact, throughout the Old Testament we often find the prophets reframing ideas about personal and national piety along these later lines, rather than through the lens of worship, prayer, fasting and religious feasts, as their original audience might have expected.

    There’s no question that Jesus picks up on these themes through his life and ministry as presented in the gospels. And, personally, I believe God still uses these measures today. This is what drives my public ethic.

    Much love and respect hombre,
    Chris

  • Chris,

    this is the only place I have made public comments about this situation. Your response has made it well worth it. much for me to think about and learn from in your reply. thanks for your time.

  • Hey Chris,
    Great article. It’s been a long time. My sister-in-law Julia posted a link to this article and I was pleasantly surprised to see you as the author.

    My husband, Justin, is currently half way through his Ph.D at UW-Milwaukee and this bill will really hurt us. By taking away collective bargaining rights, our health care costs will triple. His salary is far less than other research institutes that we considered, but we chose UWM because of the great benefits like family healthcare (we have 2 kids). Along with losing health benefits this bill also gets rid of tuition remission, meaning that his entire salary would go towards paying for his research credits. Justin signed a contract, and now Walker’s bill will make that contract null and void. If it goes through UW-Milwaukee will not be able to stay a research institution. Walker’s solution to not having this effect UW-Madison, is to remove them from the UW system, making them a separate entity that can still have tuition remission and good benefits. So if this goes through, we may have to move and start a Ph.D over somewhere else. That is 2 years of research basically thrown away.

    Many people think that the unions are being stubborn and commercials on TV make it seem like state employees have had a free ride. In reality, most workers haven’t had raises in years and some (Milwaukee county workers, where Walker was county commissioner) took pay cuts because he forced them to take furlough days. (courts just ruled it an illegal breach of contract) They only thing that made the job worthwhile was good benefits.

    I know there is no easy solution, but I sure wish that Walker would at least be willing to talk to the unions and work with them lessening the cuts and maybe spreading them out to other unions as well. Justin spent the morning in Madison at the capitol. He said that the morning rally started with a pastor getting up and praying for a peaceful solution. Thanks for putting good information out there. Hopefully all who read this will at least pray for a peaceful compromise to come about.
    Thanks.

  • Thanks for having your facts straight and getting to the heart of the issue. I’ve been teaching since 1990 and I am worried about what this will do to the quality of education in Wisconsin. I have 30 students in a classroom now…what will the future bring 40 or 50? Wisconsin is number two in the ACT we will dramatically loose ground. Thanks for a great article that I will be sharing with my priest!

  • Is there any conflict of interest when you allow people to vote for their salaries and pensions? That is the current system in a state like Wisconsin. I’m not saying there is no room for unions, but public sector employee unions vote overwhelmingly Democratic and Democrats at the state and federal level are always fighting to give the public sector employees more and more concessions.

    I love teachers. I am a product of the public school system. My grandpa was a public school principal and math teacher for 40 years. I get that this issue is personal for a lot of people. But Wisconsin is out of money. Illinois is out of money. California is out of money. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have spent money we don’t have for far too long. THAT is the issue that needs addressing.

    Private sector unions are different. They are not able to vote for who will be sitting across them at the negotiating table. There is a division of labor, as it were.

    I appreciate your thoughts on the matter, and am glad I stumbled onto your site, but I think you are slightly mis-characterizing (and incorrectly assessing) this situation. It’s only a “political” issue because a Republican governor who promised to do what he is doing when he ran won the election and is following through on his campaign promises. Elections have consequences, as a conservative like myself learned in 2006 and 2008.

  • Governor Walker did not campaign on elliminating collective bargaining rights, he campaigned on cuts that would effect union budgets. There’s a big difference between the two.

    http://politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2011/feb/22/scott-walker/wisconsin-gov-scott-walker-says-he-campaigned-his-/

  • This article is little more than a collection of cherry-picked bits of “evidence” from one-side of the argument (David Obey AND E.J. Dionne as your only two voices of direct support? Come on.) What is more, Mr. LaTondresse clearly has not even explored whether a link exists between successfully repairing a budget shortfall and ending collective bargaining. What would be the point of negotiating salary cuts or benefit plans if the unions would simply override them in a year or two? If you don’t think that would happen, you’ve obviously never paid attention to union tactics.

    Other points of absurdity in the article?

    Walker’s plan, restricts collective bargaining, but it does not eliminate it.

    Why did he not include police and firefighters? Look what happened when the crybaby teachers walked off the job. Do you think it would be safe to have thousands of police and fire personnel do the same?

    I’m a Democrat in Wisconsin and didn’t vote for the guy. But our budget problems have direct links back to the sweet environment that the union has lived in here. You seem like a capable writer. Next time do a little fact-checking instead of spouting naive assumptions, recycled partisan rhetoric, and wikipedia posts.

    • Billy,

      I’ll be more charitable in my response than you’re being with Wisconsin’s teachers by calling them “crybabies” and with me though your accusations that I’m simply naive, recycling partisan rhetoric, and that I’ve “obviously never paid attention to union tactics”. This kind of name calling isn’t helpful in these important debates. If you’re going to comment here in the future, I’d respectfully ask you to change your tone.

      A couple of thoughts, in response to your own:

      1) “Walker’s plan, restricts collective bargaining, but it does not eliminate it.”

      It’s Walker’s job to balance the budget. Walker’s bill has budget balancing provisions. That’s what it’s designed to do. No issue or disagreement here. The issue is that this bill also includes a completely unrelated provision that limits the future negotiation power of public unions to squabbles over whether the state will allow a (maximum) 3% cost of living increase to their salaries.

      The union’s leverage points go from dozens (not only pensions and health benefits) to ONE. With this law in place, the governor could pass another bill tomorrow that completely eliminates health benefits and pensions for state workers, and they would have no recourse — they wouldn’t even have a legal forum to address it, let alone negotiate it.

      In other words: the unions would be powerless, or, to use another word, “bust”. If this provision isn’t union busting — as even a Fox News anchor like Shepherd Smith can recognize (link below) — then “union busting” literally has no meaning. Let’s call a spade a spade. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/24/shep-smith-wisconsin-figh_n_827547.html?ref=fb&src=sp

      Meanwhile, said provision has zero effect on reducing Wisconsin’s deficit this year, so it cannot be credibly invoked as necessary measure to balance the budget, as Walker claims. If Walker wants to fight this battle, that’s his prerogative as the Republican Governor. He should just: 1) Be above board about its intended effect, and 2) Save it for a separate bill.

      I’m not a union apologist, but I do believe in their right to exist. When we strip away all the partisan rhetoric coming from both sides on this issue, one simple question remains: Do you believe that public unions have a right to exist? If not, just say so. We can agree to disagree.

      2) “Why did he not include police and firefighters? Look what happened when the crybaby teachers walked off the job. Do you think it would be safe to have thousands of police and fire personnel do the same?”

      If I understand your argument correctly, you’re suggesting that Walker’s selective targeting of certain unions is primarily about public safety — which is why he’s left out the police and firefighters unions. If this the case, explain why prison workers unions are also targeted by Walker’s proposal. Also, why have the police and firefighters unions joined the teachers (and others) in protesting his proposal?

      3) “David Obey AND E.J. Dionne as your only two voices of direct support? Come on.”

      So the perspectives MLK jr. and the Pope on the practical and moral importance of unions don’t count here?

  • Chris,

    I’ll concede that my tone was more combative than it should have been. I’ve been too close to the situation in WI for too long, and my patience has run out. Still, that’s a weak excuse from someone who would enjoy seeing a transformation take place in the tone and tenor of public debate.

    Some thoughts to your thoughts:

    1. I’ll take the largest question first. I quibble with the notion that unions “have a right to exist.” I believe that individuals have the right to form unions, both public and private. I understand what you mean when you ask the question, but the notion that unions exist independently of the individuals that form them (and I have heard this argument made several times) is precisely what has led states like Wisconsin into the public sector messes in which they now find themselves.

    By believing that union “rights” are something more than the common rights of collected individuals, we create bodies that coerce members of the same trade into joining, arbitrarily change membership dues, and determine how those dues are spent (often against the wishes of certain members). In a sense we have created two autonomous governing bodies (regular government and public unions) over parts of the general population which have essentially no way of checking each other. The government can “force” benefits reductions during one term, while the unions can regain them later in a more favorable political climate. And because government does not play by the same rules as a private-sector company, public unions can continue to increase demands without fear that the company itself will fold. The post above by R.J. Moeller speaks more to all of this as well.

    Even now, we are seeing this play out in Milwaukee. Though it’s clear that the city is mired in a financial crisis much like the state, Mayor Tom Barrett’s plea that police and fire unions accept the reductions in benefits proposed in Walker’s budget has not only been rejected by the unions, but they have pushed for increases.

    To your point that under Walker’s plan public unions would be forced to exchange dozens of points of leverage for only one, how is this all that different from the environment in which private unions operate? Further, the notion that public unions are left with no recourse is a bit short-sighted. They would be left with the same options that private unions have, which I feel need no enumeration here.

    And I would respectfully ask that we put aside the potential of a governor completely eliminating the health and pension benefits of public employees as far-fetched at this moment. Possible? Sure. Likely? Not so much.

    I would like to pose a question to you. Do you believe public unions should be allowed to enjoy more “rights” than private sector unions?

    To your point that the provision limiting the unions’ power to negotiate has no impact on this year’s fiscal defecit, I refer to my earlier post which hints at the pointlessness of short-term benefit reductions if the unions will simply regain those losses possibly as soon as the next election cycle. I also remind you that Wisonsin operates on a biennial budget cycle.

    2. At one point, Walker stated that he reserved the use of the National Guard for service in the prison system if necessary. He has not (to my knowledge, though please correct me) mentioned using them as a general police force. I would assume, given the specialized nature of the training, that the NG would not be considered for fire services.

    3. When I criticized the use of Obey and Dionne, I was thinking only on the grounds of political support, which is why I made no mention of MLK Jr. and Pope Benedict. I would caution, however, that we not move MLK too far out of the larger context surrounding his motivation in supporting the sanitation workers.

  • As a random Canadian outsider I find this debate fascinating. I’ve always been a fan of unions, although I recognize they come with a plethora of issues. However, from my vantage point, American political culture is so terrified of the electorate that the issue of increasing taxes will never be on the table… and without more tax revenue, governments will be forced to slash these types of benefits. What other option do they have? Of course, from what I see and read and have experienced about the United States, this goes to the heart of being “American.” ie. the importance of individual rights will should always beat out the collective. My question is, how Biblical is that? How far should our belief in (small “l”) liberal ideas of individual rights and freedoms go in answering the question of “should Christians care about unions?” I have no answer, I just have my experience of growing up in a culture that seems to value the collective just a wee bit more than my neighbour to the south.

  • As a random Canadian outsider I find this debate fascinating. I’ve always been a fan of unions, although I recognize they come with a plethora of issues. However, from my vantage point, American political culture is so terrified of the electorate that the issue of increasing taxes will never be on the table… and without more tax revenue, governments will be forced to slash these types of benefits. What other option do they have? Of course, from what I see and read and have experienced about the United States, this goes to the heart of being “American.” ie. the importance of individual rights will should always beat out the collective. My question is, how Biblical is that? How far should our belief in (small “l”) liberal ideas of individual rights and freedoms go in answering the question of “should Christians care about unions?” I have no answer, I just have my experience of growing up in a culture that seems to value the collective just a wee bit more than my neighbour to the south.

  • As a random Canadian outsider I find this debate fascinating. I’ve always been a fan of unions, although I recognize they come with a plethora of issues. However, from my vantage point, American political culture is so terrified of the electorate that the issue of increasing taxes will never be on the table… and without more tax revenue, governments will be forced to slash these types of benefits. What other option do they have? Of course, from what I see and read and have experienced about the United States, this goes to the heart of being “American.” ie. the importance of individual rights will should always beat out the collective. My question is, how Biblical is that? How far should our belief in (small “l”) liberal ideas of individual rights and freedoms go in answering the question of “should Christians care about unions?” I have no answer, I just have my experience of growing up in a culture that seems to value the collective just a wee bit more than my neighbour to the south.

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