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Wisconsin’s Labor Unions Essay

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Updated: Feb 20th, 2019


Many state employees including teachers and government employees are protesting against a proposed legislation that seeks to curtail the collective bargaining rights of workers unions. They are also opposed to a move spearheaded by the Republican Governor, Scott Walker of raising employee’s contribution towards the pension scheme from 0.2 percent to 6 percent and increasing the health insurance contribution from 6% to 12%.

Proponents of the proposed legislation, including Walker, support it as the best effort to solve the current economic crisis and avoid layoffs of public employees. The bill has the support of Republican lawmakers who have the numbers in both the state Assembly and the Senate to pass it. Once passed, the legislation will demand that the unions’ employees pay will be line with the guidelines of Consumer Price Index.

The efforts of the protesters to stop the legislation from becoming law through labor unions represent a clear example of Marxist theory. The protesters want to avoid exploitation by protecting their collective bargaining rights. The Marxist concept of surplus value outlines how a capitalist economy exploits state employees. According to this theory, state employees can avoid exploitation through forming workers union that gives them effective bargaining rights since labor is the generator of value.

Labor Theory of Value

Karl Marx formulated the concept of surplus value to refer to the unpaid surplus labor claimed by enterprises as gross profit (Hollander 78). Marxist idea implies that capitalist states exploit state employees. He argues that the commodity value is derived from the labor value.

The surplus labor reinvestment generates more wealth resulting to huge gross profits and thus, Marx concludes, capitalist states engage in business for profits. Marx argues that the accumulation of wealth in the 19th century by capitalist economies was because of competitive efforts to get the highest surplus value from the labor. This implies that capitalists were exploiting the workers on a massive scale leading to large-scale amassment of wealth by these states.

Marxism holds that every person is justified in maintaining the fruits of his/her labor. However, he argues that the worker receives only the portion of labor that is basic for life while the remainder i.e. the surplus produce constitutes the profits accrued by capitalist enterprises. Marxist’s idea of surplus value led to the labor union programs to protect the rights of the workers from the perceived exploitation by capitalist states.

Sociological Concepts

Various social concepts explain the form of modern social and economic organizations in the world (Dillon 45). Disenchantment capitalism involves private ownerships of the markets, allocation of the resources and distribution of goods. The concept arose during the industrial revolution of the 16th century and enabled countries to exploit new colonies.

The new system led to an increase in the level of trade both domestic and multilateral trade between a state and its colonies. This amounted to exploitation of the colonies and the accumulation of wealth by the rich countries. The non-rewarding labor in the colonies necessitated uprisings against foreign governance.

The sociological concept underscores the need of people coming together to push for common goals. For instance, workers working in a given organization might team to push for better payment. Better payment here plays as the denominator of these workers staying together for they pursue similar goals and objectives.

Workers of an organization bond together through workers union so that they are enough force to make demands pertaining to their work conditions. In mechanical solidarity, the people feel connected based on mutual interests for a certain course. The mass protest of workers in Wisconsin shows that they are united by a common goal. The workers unions act as an umbrella body, which unites these workers and provides bargaining rights for them.

Sociability involves the social interactions for different purposes not on personal purposes. People enter into any form of sociability with personal capacities, attractions, and interests with an objective purpose in mind (Dillon 47).The workers get into unions for personal and subjective gains. In sociability, the members are equal and are therefore democratic in nature.

Sociability influences major decisions in the lives of the people. The sociological concept of world life focuses on a situation in which the world is experienced or lived. World life sociological concept provides the background environment that is responsible for an individual’s practices and attitudes.

Wisconsin has had a history of passing regulations that promote the rights of workers like the collective bargaining legislation passed in 1959 that gave rise to a union that covers public employees. Therefore, the proposal to limit the effectiveness of the workers union faces opposition through mass protests.


The workers union offers an opportunity for the workers to have bargaining rights with the state. Marx’s theory of surplus labor led to the rise of workers union. However, unions based on various sociological concepts that shape their response towards any measures that will eliminate these unions unite people as seen by the protests in Wisconsin over the proposal to limit the role of workers unions.

Works Cited

Dillon, Michele. Introduction to Sociological Theory: Theorists, Concepts, and their Applicability to the Twenty-First Century. West Sussex: John Wiley and Sons Ltd, 2009.

Hollander, Paul. The many Faces of Socialism: Comparative Sociology and Politics. California: ICON group International, 2009.

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