25 September 2012

Romney/Ryan's mixed message to labor

Whether Republicans believe in collective bargaining for workers depends on who the workers are and whom they're dealing with -- or it may depend on the eye of the beholder. While Mitt Romney was talking tough to teachers today, telling them that their unions should not be allowed to contribute to political campaigns because it creates a conflict of interest when they negotiate with elected officials, Rep. Ryan lapsed into the attitude of a consumer and found himself a cheerleader for unionized workers. Republicans can write Ryan's deviation off to local bias. The congressman from Wisconsin is an unhappy football fan today after the Green Bay Packers lost last night's game with the Seattle Seahawks. The game ended on a controversial Hail Mary throw into the end zone. A Seattle receiver and a Green Bay defender struggled for the ball. To the eyes of most observers (outside the Pacific Northwest, that is), it seemed as if the Packers had intercepted the pass and secured their victory. The referees ruled that the Seattle player had caught the ball for a game-winning touchdown. The referees are replacement workers -- "scabs" was the old term -- hired by the NFL after the league had locked out their regular refs after the failure of contract negotiations. The replacements' judgment has been questioned by fans, reporters and coaches through the first three weeks of the season. An indignant Ryan tried to reconcile his fandom with his partisanship, equating the allegedly incompetent replacement refs with the Obama administration, but his call to "get the real refs back" may be more difficult to reconcile with his principles as a 21st century Republican. I supposed that Republicans felt any worker replaceable when flexibility and competitiveness demand it. I'm more certain that it is not a Republican habit to give organized labor the benefit of the doubt in any dispute with management -- and, to be fair, Ryan did not say that the NFL had to come to terms with the union in order to get the real refs back. But anyone listening or reading Ryan could infer that the necessity of competent officiating in the NFL placed the burden of compromise on management. This sort of argument may not be available to every unionized workforce; too many people view teachers' unions as a conspiracy to protect the incompetent for them ever to inspire a cry to "get the real teachers back." Or so we assume when people view the question as taxpayers rather than parents. Romney today confronted a New York City school board member who claimed that an opinion poll showed that local parents trusted teachers over politicians with their childrens' interests. The Man From Bain replied: "I don't believe it for a minute. I know something about polls and I know you can ask questions to get any answer you want." Remember that the next time he claims that polls favor him and his agenda. For now, I suppose we should be grateful that the candidate concedes that teachers have a right to strike for higher wages, clarifying within minutes his statement that "I don't know that I would prevent teachers from being able to strike." Romney and Ryan, folks -- a couple of commies.

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