A Constitutional Question


I’ve done a pretty bad job of posting lately. My interest in politics has been tested throughly. I’m just tired of the same arguments coming from either side over government spending and taxation. The Tea Party has thoroughly destroyed my faith in Congress, and the American public. I will talk more about that in a later post. Today, I want to pose a question. It’s a question I thought of a long time ago, but never got around to asking. First, a little reminder of our recent history.

Back in March, all the talk was about Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker was trying to push a bill that stripped the collective bargaining rights of public employees. State Senate Democrats fled in an effort to obstruct him. In the end the bill was passed, but not without gaining significant national attention and a repeated FOXNews claim that was completely wrong. In the last six months, I’ve been mulling this issue over in my head. Education is very important to me. I’ve been a public school system employee. I have strong views about the issue. Personally, I don’t believe that public school teachers have the awesome, easy job that conservative talking heads say they do. I also believe that we should be encouraging people to become teachers not discouraging it. Having the smartest people want to be teachers is good. Education in the cornerstone of everything we do.

All that aside, I thought of an argument that makes the repeal of public employee’s collective bargaining rights is unconstitutional. This argument maybe crazy. It may have been addressed already. I would genuinely like to know what you think. So please leave comments below. As long as their civil and honest of course.

The 1st Amendment to the Constitution says:

     “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

We’re going to focus on the last part of that amendment. The government cannot abridge our “right to peacefully assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”  The way I read that is that collective bargaining is a right of public employees. Collective bargaining is people assembling (as a union) and petitioning the government over grievances (such as pay, working conditions and so on.)

I know that a strict constructionist view of the Constitution would not allow this, because it doesn’t talk specifically about collective bargaining, but collective bargaining didn’t exist. I believe we have to view the Constitution in the era it was written in, and decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. Let me know what you think.

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4 responses to “A Constitutional Question

  1. funny you post this, because i’ve actually been dedicating nights to reading the constitution (nerd, i know.). anyway, i feel like i should just understand it really well if i want to teach it one day, so ive dedicated myself to reading it a lot. and i actually got stuck on this part because most people just know it as “freedom of speech, worship, etc…,” but really, it can (and does) include almost every type of argument we have today between parties.

    personally, i agree with you. the GOP stands by the constitution, but really only when it favors their ideology (aka gay marriage… we don’t run the country on the bible, we run it on the constitution)

    • Yeah, the 1st amendment is really a much bigger deal than people realize. The fact is that most people don’t know what the Constitution really says, much less look at the deeper meaning of the document. The sad truth is that we don’t educate kids about this stuff. I took one semester of government in high school. That’s a ridiculously small amount of civics education to prepare someone to participate in the political process.

  2. I think you may have a point there, actually you do have a point. Now how can that be unconstitutional? Are they refering to the constitution of the state of Wisconsin? Even if they are refering to their own state constititution the U.S. Constitution exceeds their document by a million miles. Whether it is a collective bargaining, PTA meeting, or a bake sale, it does not matter what is the subject to the meeting. It was a peaceful assembly and they should appeal this in federal court.

  3. Constitutional strict constructionists are much like biblical literalists (no matter how many languages it has been translated into or the ability and bias of the men who translate it). I believe the strict constructionists believe they are channeling Locke, Rousseau, and others through their influences on Jefferson and the other founders.
    Point being that the world is dynamic not static and the constitution is like a handrail on an escalator. If you hold fast to the handrail, the stairs move on without you.

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