Wisconsin, Scott Walker, and Collective Bargaining

Since Iowa boarders Wisconsin, and since everyone is talking about Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker, the public employee unions, their collective bargaining rights, and missing Senators … I thought I would post two articles put out in this last week by Doug Wilson on his blog called Blog and Mablog.

Doug Wilson is a conservative Reformed and evangelical pastor/theologian at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, faculty member at New Saint Andrews College, and prolific author and speaker. He is featured in the documentary film Collision documenting his debates with  anti-theist Christopher Hitchens on their promotional tour for the book “Is Christianity Good for the World?”

Whether you agree or disagree with Doug Wilson is not the point of this posting. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican (of which I am neither) is not the issue. Whether you are pro-union or anti-union is not the issue. Rather, if the Gospel has to do with all of life, then these are issues that Christians should be discussing. We should care about people created in the image of God; believers and unbelievers alike.

The first article is called Who Owns the Job? And the second article is called A Dead Calico Cat on the High Altar. May this provoke us to think …

Who Owns The Job?

Just a quick note about “collective bargaining.” The real question for those who would understand the nature of unions is the question of ownership. Say there is a particular job at the office building, or at the factory, or in the shop on Main Street. Who owns that job?

The assumption behind collective bargaining is that the one who holds the job owns the job. The biblical understanding is that the one who offers the job owns the job (Matt. 20:15). This is not the same as saying that the employer is a great guy. No, the owners of jobs are frequently evil, and they abuse their position of ownership (Jas. 5:4).

Labor/management disputes often fall into a false good guy/bad guy dichotomy, and it betrays a false understanding of the antithesis. In the Bible the owners are often the bad guys.

But that does not mean they are not the owners of the jobs they offer. Bad guys can own things. And the commandment does not say, “Thou shalt not steal, except from bad guys.”So there is absolutely nothing wrong with employees collectively deciding that conditions on the job are horrendous, and deciding en masse that they don’t want to work there anymore. And there is no problem with them negotiating with the owner from that collective position. Say they are asking for a raise, or for safer working conditions. That is fully legitimate as well. What is not legitimate is for them to lock up the job they have abandoned as though they are the owners of it. To refuse to work a job that you simultaneously lay claim to is a claim of ownership, which in this case is a false claim.

This sin (and it is a sin) is in evidence when strikers attack what they call “scabs.” Scabs are workers looking for employment, and the horrendous conditions on the abandoned job would, in their instance, be an improvement.In other words, collective bargaining is nothing but extortion, and Christians should do everything in their power to have nothing to do with it.

A Dead Calico Cat on the High Altar

This morning I saw on the news that Gov. Walker’s bill concerning public sector unions passed the Wisconsin house. The 14 Wisconsin senators are still AWOL, and the governor says that if they don’t get a bill scaling things back for everybody, then instead of keeping everybody with a little less, he will have to start laying some workers off entirely. The concept of “not having any more money” is proving to be a difficult one for some to get their heads around. But that is not my primary point here. I mean, what else is new?

The video clip that really struck me was the leftist assemblymen in orange t-shirts yelling, “Shame! shame! shame!” during the vote, and jabbing their fingers at the Republican assemblymen as they filed out of the chamber after the vote. “Shame! shame! shame!” And there were some poltroons up in the balcony doing the same thing. And this brought another related word to my mind, which is the word shameless. Not to mention clueless.

Shame? By what standard? These protests have no traction. When you are hub deep in the ditch, gunning the engine does nothing but produce an impressive dark brown rooster tail.

I asked “by what standard?” The answer is that we are looking at people who have had, their entire lives, a deep and abiding and religious faith in the state. Everybody knows that private individuals and corporations can go bankrupt. That is a trouble, and in some cases a tragedy, but everybody gets it. That happens.

But the idea of your god running low on cash unsettles you completely. And if someone points out that your god is standing there, pockets pulled out and all tapped out, or worse yet, starts acting like this is true, the frenzy sets in. Someone who is religously committed cannot take this kind of thing in stride, and cannot treat it as just another political disagreement. No, the reaction is more like what would happen if an infidel heaved a dead calico cat at the high altar of the cathedral sanctuary in the middle of the high services on one of the central holy days.

So this is not a political discussion. These are the priests of Baal, cutting themselves with knives. And still, no fire. This also explains the double standard. If Elijah had done anything funny at the altar at all, he would have been derided mercilessly. But they can dance around for half a day, their knives working away busily, and everybody takes it in stride. Tea Party rallies have been peaceful, orderly and clean. All of them have been reported with lowered eyebrows and dark warnings about violence and racism. Union goons punch, threaten, kick and stomp, and it is treated as a robust expression of the democratic process. Double standards are not expressions of an arbitrary inconsistency. Rather, they are expressions of religious paradigms in action.

In order to accept the fact that the government has no more money, and can’t just summon it up from its mysterious place of origin indefinitely, one has to get into a frame of mind that is perilously close to repentance. That’s deeply unsettling. In order to accept this new state of affairs (in which the government is le busted, as the French say) a man has to stop believing the government’s promises, and stop investing a religious faith in those promises. He has to admit that his god is a god that has failed. His god wrote a check that failed to clear. He knows that there are checks in the world that fail to clear. He understands that. But how could a divine check fail to clear? When that moment of stone cold realization settles in, the only conclusion is — modus tollens — that the signatory on those checks was not so divine after all. So it is easier to yell “Shame!” at a fiscally responsible assemblyman. And the object of that derision might be justified in thinking, as he files out of the chamber, “Shame? Because I know how to add and subtract? Because my calculator works?”

You see, if the state is not an effective savior, then someone else must be. His name is Jesus. If the state is not the provider of all things, then someone else must be. He is the Lord. If the state is not solvent, then solvency must be located in the heavens, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thugs and miscreants cannot vote it away.


One Response to “Wisconsin, Scott Walker, and Collective Bargaining”

  1. david sims Says:

    very good alter-input to the media bias

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