Just a reminder about what’s going on in the Wisconsin governor recall election today. I wrote this last year for Politics Daily …
I don’t want to see a conspiracy where there isn’t one, but as some politicians push to cut reproductive and economic rights for women, it’s hard not to view other efforts that would disproportionately impact women through that same lens of attack.
So when labor statistics suggest that moves to weaken unions at the state and local level would impact women more than men, it’s tough not to judge Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-Wis.) apparent union-busting crusade as anything other than the latest swipe at American women.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 61 percent of local government workers and 52 percent of state government employees are women. Broken down further, the information gathered by the IWPR from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that public sector employees who are teachers, nurses, administrative assistants, secretaries and teacher’s assistants — jobs that are primarily held by women — have the highest rate of union membership.
When those statistics are viewed in conjunction with Walker’s statements that Wisconsin union members who are police and firefighters — professions that are still heavily male-dominated — would be exempt from his plan, it seems clear that efforts to cut union wages and benefits, as well as collective bargaining rights, would put women at the back of the economic line more so than men.
Union workers aren’t the only ones who will feel the sting if Walker has his way. Other governors like John Kasich of Ohio, Mitch Daniels of Indiana and even Andrew Cuomo of New York are contemplating similar constraints on their public employee unions. If all those governors, and possibly others, are successful, don’t be surprised if public school education takes a big hit as long-time teachers rethink their career choices.
One Wisconsin teacher I know is ready to throw in the towel after 15 years. She’s been committed to educating children and probably could have been making a whole heck of a lot more money in the private sector. Now, in light of events in Wisconsin, she feels betrayed and forgotten, and is tempted to walk away from a rewarding, but increasingly challenging, profession. That’s not to say she isn’t making a good living and maybe she’s even making more money than plenty of non-union workers around the country. But if there’s one dedicated teacher who’s ready to put her teaching career on the shelf because she’s feeling thrown under the bus, there are surely others.
As governors analyze their efforts to be fiscally responsible, it might be wise if they also take a long, hard look at the potential consequences of their actions, intended and otherwise. Because even if we take them at their word that they’re just trying to do some fiscal belt-tightening, they may find their public school classrooms more crowded and ineffective, and their hospital emergency rooms overflowing, because the women who bear the brunt of their proposed union measures decide to take their skills elsewhere.