Historically, public sector employees have always retained the right to strike in order to secure better pay and working conditions, especially when faced with unfavourable government policies or proposed legislation. However, the current economic circumstances of the US may soon make this a thing of the past, as governors are forced to cut their states budget shortfall by bringing public sector employee rights adjacent with those afforded by the private sector. However, while public expenditure must be cut to improve the nation’s overall budget deficit of $1.5 trillion, should it really come at the cost of fundamental employee bargaining rights?
Ohio state legislature this week passed a bill to limit employee’s collective bargaining rights by banning them from striking and also allowing them to refuse to pay their union dues. The primary reasoning behind the idea is to reduce the local governments burden and financial costs, serving the dual purpose of reducing their deficit while also enabling them to compete against more prosperous job creating states. In its is essence it is a logical plan for long term growth, and easily understandable when you understand the recent events in the city of Detroit and throughout many of the southern states of America.
The State Against the Individual
This situation is a textbook example of the main challenge that faces government in a democratic regime, as they are often unable to satisfy the needs of individuals and single groups while also acting in the interests of society as a whole. In this instance, economic regeneration is the best and most suitable methodology for creating prosperity in the state of Ohio, and this can be achieved through reducing public sector expenditure without losing jobs from organizations. Though clearly a way forward for the state as a single entity, it is has already been construed as an elevation of corporate interests above those of the common man.
This conclusion is drawn from the fact that the reduction of collective bargaining rights is perceived as an hostile act of oppression by public sector workers, and one which weakens their standing as individual employees. In a democracy, especially one as long standing as that which has reigned within the US, individuals become accustomed to certain privileges which dictate a freedom of thought and deed. Where this is compromised, even by a piece of legislation that may ultimately benefit them and the state, it evokes a negative emotion as a typical response.
An Act of Repression
Regardless of these perceived benefits however, there are still relevant questions as to whether restricting employees collective bargaining rights is at all suitable in a democratic regime. The right to strike and utilize unions to negotiate pay and conditions is an accepted practice in contemporary culture, and helps to ensure that individuals are not exploited by employers within the workplace. It also allows workers to uphold their freedom of expression while in employment, and take a principled stand against any perceived acts of corporate repression.
These freedoms are inherent to the function of a democracy, as they allow processes of liberal thought and speech to take place within a corporate environment. In the case of these freedoms being denied, then there is a genuine risk that individuals can be exploited by self serving corporate organizations and that democracy itself can become marginalized within the workplace. Of course, democracy is something that should be prevalent in every area of existence, otherwise its purpose in rendered increasingly irrelevant throughout society in its entirety.
A Long Road Towards Agreement
There is likely to be a concerted and well supported attempt to repeal this legislation in the coming Fall, which could create a precedent for other states considering restricting collective bargaining rights. Another benefit of democracy is that it allows individuals and groups to fight for their constitutional rights, which means that any legislation that effects or compromises these in some way will face substantial opposition before it can be implemented fully. So, a long and arduous road lies ahead for Ohio and any state rule that seeks to reduce their local government deficit through this methodology.
Ultimately, unless an understanding and subsequent compromise can be found between local government representatives and the community that they represent, then disagreements and disputes will continue without resolution. Democracy and its freedom comes with a significant of responsibility for both citizens and a governing regime, and this demands a comprehension and respect for others requirements and circumstance. Without it, its very principles become impotent against a gathering of individual and selfish demands.