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EDITORIAL: Big Labor’s theater of the absurd

Wisconsin antics showcase problem with public-sector unions

- The Washington Times - Monday, February 21, 2011

Wisconsin's labor protests have been likened to the Middle East uprisings, but they have more the flavor of a spoiled brat's temper tantrum. It is as if labor activists have adopted the motto, "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good."

Public-sector unions in the Badger State certainly have a right to stand up for issues that matter to them, but the antics in Madison - orchestrated by President Obama's political machine and Democratic National Committee - go far beyond reasonable political activism.

The demonstrators behave as if their actions carried no consequences. Teachers fail to report to work by pretending to be unwell, using students as props for their political theater. Doctors, or those pretending to be such, violate their professional oaths by passing out letters with a bogus diagnosis enabling the "sick" to carry signs calling for violence against Gov. Scott Walker. Democratic state senators hold the legislative process hostage by fleeing the state. It is no wonder that, according to one poll, Mr. Walker has more support than his opponents.

The sanctimony of the spectacle reached its height when the Rev. Jesse Jackson arrived to make comparisons with the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. in 1965. "This is a Martin Luther King moment, this is a Gandhi moment," Mr. Jackson said.

No reasonable person would equate what is going on in Madison with protests against Jim Crow. The labor unions and the activists-for-hire are subverting the democratic process in the name of retaining overly generous benefits and outsized collective-bargaining power for themselves. Wisconsin's chief executive, unlike Mr. Obama, cannot simply borrow or print money to underwrite government excess.

The protesters have no problem with forcing the rest of society to pay for their lavish lifestyle. Even big government's biggest fan, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, warned of the danger of unionized government in a 1937 letter. He explained that "the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service." In this case, the employer is "the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress." He added that "militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees."

According to Roosevelt, government employees "serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount." And "a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied," something that is "unthinkable and intolerable."

Those engaged in the revolting display of political theater in Madison should understand that their sense of entitlement is more than countered by the public's sense of outrage. If government employees choose not to be a part of the solution to Wisconsin's fiscal crisis, the people will rightly conclude that they are the problem.

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