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Wisconsin's Fight Against Labor Hurts Women More Than Men

3 years ago
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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.

You can follow Joanne Bamberger on Twitter and Facebook.

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11 Comments

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gaylefishkin

having studied to be a teacher in the 1950's I can tell you from experience that in those years teachers made $70 per week, and had very few benefits. I went to work in private industry becasue I could make $80 Most teachers in those days were women, and they stood in back of the line. For those of you who think teaching is easy and not dangerous try teaching in a 'ghetto' school. The union enabled woman for the first time to have decent pay and benefits that would sustain them in their old age. I hope you are all prepared to reenter the world of Charles Dickens - are there no poor houses?

March 05 2011 at 10:32 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to gaylefishkin's comment
ettu

Public sector workers were given benefits that the private sector did not enjoy.........shorter work day, earlier retirement, more time off, etc. But to now try to relate what used to be, with what is now taking place, is simple-minded. Not only have the public sector workers caught up with the rest of us, your pay, pensions, and benefits far exceed what the majority of American workers can expect. Time to call a halt to madness.

March 06 2011 at 4:45 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
scottee

jobs will not come back until the government gets really smaller, taxes get really simpler and fairer and markets are free. ............ as long as there is a trillion dollar national debt, as long as The Fed is printing and diluting our dollar and manipulating stock prices, gold prices and interest rates, and as long as both parties in Congress are social engineering via the tax code, things will not...cannot improve....it's that simple!

March 05 2011 at 7:40 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
billcoffer

With an average teacher's wage of $51K and benefits totaling $38K (according to ABC News) I don't see "the women at the back of the economic line."

March 04 2011 at 5:16 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
cplkling

So with this logic, more women have been living off the excessive largess of the tax payers for all this time? Shame on them. If you cry when your good pay is cut, why not say thank you for all the years that you have had such a cherry deal? Unfortunately that isn't how it works in America, the Land of The Entiltement Mentality. Give Me, Give Me, Give Me is the chant. I know we have so much opportunity and possiblity in American, but some just want it given to them. If the generations that got through the Depression and WW II could see us they must be so ashamed for raising such whiny, self-absorbed and entilted people. I must tell you, I am ashamed to know some of these people and for the life of me don't know what it is that drives this Give Me attitude.

March 04 2011 at 1:25 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Michael

"Labor"? School teachers are hardly labor; they are white-collar professionals. Wisconsin is attempting to adjust the balance between the compensation of public servants and the burden on the taxpayers who employ them. Collective bargaining for public workers is a privilege granted (unwisely, some say) by some states; it is not by any stretch a right.

March 03 2011 at 11:20 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
Chicagogrammy

As a woman, I resent the comments of Ms. Bamberger. She does not speak for me. I do not feel that women are being attacked in any way. Many states and municipalities in this country are going broke. The demands of public service employees play a large part in these financial problems. I do not believe that federal, state, county or municipal employees should have the right to strike or collectively bargain. They make good incomes and have good benefits. better than most private sector employees and I'm tired of listening to their complaints.

March 03 2011 at 6:08 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
lulunaplesfl

At the same token, the majority of these women have children. Are they willing to saddle their kids with paying the huge debt our government has run up? In addition, millions of women have graduated from high schools and colleges but cannot find work. If any of these teachers/administrators/nurses are fired, there will be plenty of other women willing to take up the slack.

March 03 2011 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
harjacobhar

Im sure men cant see this side of an argument, and I am not advokating that we go out and burn our bra's but there are more and more and probably a majority of single mother households in America.....

This is who Scott Walker wants you to believe is the enemy.

March 02 2011 at 4:50 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to harjacobhar's comment
stbrack

do you have any proof that walker wants us to think women are the enemy? Don't you really think this whole thing is he/ republicans just want to cut spending because if we don't our debt will keep growing untill we can't get a handel on it and it will bankrupt the state. This has nothing to do with men vs. women, it's about doing the right thing and the right thing is hard, and some people don't want the pain that comes with the cuts.

March 02 2011 at 5:25 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Chicagogrammy

I am a single mother and raised 2 children without the benefit of any unions. Scott Walker is not accusing anyone of being "the enemy". He's just trying to rein in the budget in Wisconsin before the state goes bankrupt. He was elected, as was the House and Senate of Wisconsin to stop the financial catastrophe and he's just doing the job he was elected to do. If there is an enemy in all this, it's the union hierarchy who do not care about their own members or the country. They are in a power grab and that's all they care about. If we want to look at a group of people who do not get paid what they deserve, lets look at our military and their families.

March 03 2011 at 6:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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