Friday, September 21, 2012

Advice to the lovelorn

By Bill Kraus

Twenty years ago the Senate Democrats asked me to tell them why they were not beloved. I told them. They haven’t invited me back, nor have they acted on what I told them.

Recently, a mostly public labor union group asked me the same question. I accepted their invitation. I never learn. I told them I thought they lost the sympathy that accompanied the Republican overreach on collective bargaining by resorting to the kind of bullying in the recall process that had spurred the Republican overreach.

The face of public labor unions is the 500-pound gorilla that buys power with money and votes to crush their enemies and intimidate their friends. Actually, one of the beneficiaries of their largesse once told me, “You have it wrong. They are not the 500-pound gorilla. It’s more like a 600-pound gorilla.”

Other contributors to this discussion suggested that the public unions’ world has changed and the face of these organizations must change as well. Instead of the hard-line, aggressive, no holds barred leaders and staffs, the unions should put their main assets, the teachers and public employees, out front.

People like teachers. Teachers and public employees as well are an important, respected part of every community. The union staffs and leaders are no less worthy. It’s their less lovable image and the fact that they are less local that’s a problem.

My audience, interestingly, did not push back on either the characterization or the recommendation.

Whether the possibly chimerical judicial ruling on the famous Act 10 will alter what I regarded as an encouraging sign will be evident soon. I hope not.

If the Republicans had asked the question these labor representatives did I would have told them that their face, which is increasingly that of the defining social issues and their strident adherents, will destroy them.

It is okay to suck up to the hard liners with money and votes.

If that association becomes you or your image though, you are history.

The small sample of the labor movement that I saw seemed to have learned that lesson in the last chaotic couple of years.

If the Republicans don’t they will wither for lack of young blood, talent, energy, and even money if the people with the money think they are buying into losing causes and a party with a face that repels more than it appeals.

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