The drama unfolding in Madison, Wisconsin is bigger, better theater than just about anything on last night’s Oscars, with the kind of high drama, and battles to take ownership of the proverbial white hat and categorize opponents as black hats. And while the attempts to diminish or even eliminate the state workers’ rights to collective bargaining have caused unprecedented amounts of conflict, I am guessing labor leaders are secretly thankful for this extremely difficult, combustible scenario.
Not too long ago, in my home state of NJ, the Governor took on the teachers union, and encouraged voters to reject school budgets to send a signal to teachers about the need for “shared sacrifice.” The bailout of the auto industry left many with a decidedly anti-union point of view, believing that the demands of the UAW over decades rendered a city, and indeed an industry, non-competitive. Labor was on the fast track for some pretty negative labels – entitled, unyielding and an impediment to economic prosperity.
Then came the events of Madison…and once again labor finds itself carrying the mantle of the working man (and woman) in need of protection, representation and intervention between the working men and women and the big boss, in this case, the state.
Will labor be able to capitalize on these events and sustain their relevance with the media, and more importantly, the American people? Or will they return to the entitled, unyielding labels that have plagued them for decades? Their next steps will be important…and have a long-term effect. Either way, it should be an interesting show.