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JFK would have opposed Scott Walker. So what?

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A writer posting at one of my favorite websites, History News Network, says JFK never would have sided with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in today's recall election.

Kennedy, writes Martin Halpern, a professor of history at Henderson State University in Arkansas, was a great champion of organized labor and, more to the point, of public employee unions. In 1962, JFK set a historic precedent by granting limited collective bargaining rights to most civilian employees of the federal government.

Of course Kennedy took that stand then. And, I'd argue, of course he would not today.

The world has changed. The American economy has changed. The very real problem of unions negotiating against the very same politicians they put into office -- and who owe them big time -- is far more clear. And never has the taxpayer been less able to fork over the money to cover those continually growing public employee pensions.

Something has to give, as even our union-beholden Democratic governor, Pat Quinn, now fully accepts. And Quinn, you can bet, would have been in Kennedy's camp on the union issue in 1962. My guess is that JKF still would extoll the virtues of unions -- not demonized them, as Walker has -- but view them in a more ambivalent light.

Halpern does give a nice summation of Kennedy's views and policies on labor unions circa the early 1960s.

History News Network is a website maintained by historians for historians who are looking for a way to weigh in quickly on more topical issues, bringing to the conversation that long-term perspective.

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This page contains a single entry by Tom McNamee published on June 5, 2012 11:28 AM.

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