The issue is not unions, it’s government employee unions

A common tactic on the left, including in the media, when there’s a discussion of illegal immigration, is to talk about “immigrants” rather than “illegal immigrants”, in order to cloud the issue at hand.

A similar dynamic is occurring in the current debate over government employee unions in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Protesters in Wisconsin, and their media and political allies, consistently speak of “worker rights”, “labor rights”, “union rights”, etc. But no one anywhere is talking about doing anything at all regarding private sector unions. The issue at hand is solely about government employee unions.

It’s important for people to understand that the relationship between management and labor in the public sector is entirely different from the relationship in the private, profit-making sector. Even liberal icon FDR understood this well back in the 1930s:

“The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service,” Roosevelt wrote in 1937 to the National Federation of Federal Employees. Yes, public workers may demand fair treatment, wrote Roosevelt. But, he wrote, “I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place” in the public sector. “A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government.”

It’s understandable that the protesters in Wisconsin would want to obscure the distinction, but conservatives (like Sarah Palin, for example) should be careful to preserve it whenever they address the topic. The government union bosses, who want to preserve their political clout and perks, want to portray the issue as “fat-cat rich Republican politicians” against “working people”. Conservatives need to be careful not to help them do it.

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