Educational Editorial: Learning from Wisconsin drama

By Dr. Bill Bosher, NBC12 Educational Specialist

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Madison, Wisconsin, has drawn much attention in recent weeks. What do young people possibly learn from the Wisconsin drama?

Labor unions were at their peak in membership in the 1950s. They typically use collective bargaining to negotiate wages, benefits, and work conditions for their members.

The most prominent unions today represent teachers and public safety personnel. Except in "right to work" states, like Virginia and 21 others, employees may be required to join the union in order to get and keep a job.

The Governor of Wisconsin wants to cut the budget by $1 billion through the elimination of bargaining rights of some public employee groups. Unions across the country see this as a "buster" and have rallied in protest.

Not only do the public employees see this as unfair, they feel that their role is essential. Let's look back at another public sector labor dispute. In 1981, 13,000 members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization illegally walked off their jobs. President Reagan gave them 48 hours to return or be fired. They did not…and he did.

Disaster was predicted, but supervisors, non-strikers, and 900 military personnel kept the planes flying. The FAA training facility tripled its production of graduates and in four weeks 45,000 applications were received.

In reality, airlines continued to fly safely with 20 percent fewer controllers. It seems that most of the public is looking at Wisconsin and saying, "you have 48 hours or you will lose your jobs"…and we may save some money.

As for the legislators who have "walked out," they should be given the same option.

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