Scott Walker vs. the Unions (Part 2 of 2)

Summary: In part one we examined the early stages of the struggle between unions and Wisconsin’s combative governor, Scott Walker—his reform efforts, the initial protests, efforts to recall Walker and his allies, and the “John Doe” raids targeting supporters of reform. In part two, we look at his reelection campaign and the biggest twist of all: Wisconsin, birthplace of so-called Progressivism, becomes a Right to Work state.

As the 2014 election neared, and the unions had their third chance to stop Walker, the Governor appeared to be in danger of losing. In mid-October, the RealClearPolitics average of polls had Walker ahead by only 47.7 to 47.3. Given that challengers usually receive the lion’s share of undecided voters, any incumbent polling under 50 percent with a challenger close behind is in serious trouble.

Walker’s opponent was formidable: Mary Burke, who had served as the state’s Secretary of Commerce under former Gov. Jim Doyle, Walker’s predecessor. Burke won the Democratic primary 83-1 7 over state Rep. Brett Hulsey. Hulsey was considered a gadfly. A liberal, he had reportedly tried to make a deal to join the GOP caucus in the Assembly, then, supposedly to satirize Republicans’ racism, dressed as a Confederate major to greet Republicans attending their state convention.

Burke was rich, the daughter of the founder of Trek Bicycle Corporation, and her wealth was spotlighted during the campaign. Democrats cheered her ability to “self-finance” her campaign. That’s an important quality in a candidate today, given that campaign finance laws make it difficult for people of modest means to raise money for a major campaign. Burke eventually spent a reported $5 million of her own money in the governor’s race.

Republicans questioned Burke’s ability to understand the problems of working-class people and small-business-class people, particularly in light of her attacks on the Tea Party movement. It turned out that, to win her only elective office, a local school board seat in Madison, she had spent $128,000 of her own money. Particularly damaging to Burke was the revelation that she had taken off from work for two years to “find herself” and go snowboarding in Colorado and Argentina. (Details of the trip are murky because Burke refused to clarify what happened.) “Yes, she’s a wealthy business owner who took time off to snowboard,” wrote Joan Walsh of the left-wing online publication Salon, but “She’s also a philanthropist who gave her time and money to Madison’s Boys and Girls Club” and other nonprofits.

Walsh wrote that, “In the crowd of mostly retirees [at a Burke campaign event], there’s a fondness for Burke, an odd gratitude that this affluent woman, a comparative newcomer to politics, has graced their party, and their state, with such a high-minded campaign. If this is noblesse oblige, bring it on.”

Like many Democratic candidates in 2014, Burke sought women’s votes by accusing her opponent of conducting a war on women. Walsh noted in the article, written about a month before the election, that, while Walker had consolidated his rural, suburban, and male base, Burke had not been so effective with her own base, but “campaigns by Emily’s List and Planned Parenthood are designed to turn that around.” (Emily’s List is a group that raises money for female pro-abortion candidates, and Planned Parenthood is a pro-abortion group funded by taxpayers.)

Walsh’s criticism of Walker was typical: “Walker is both the product of the grim racial politics that have polarized Wisconsin, and its leading modern purveyor. He’s cut funding for mass transit and welfare programs, slashed the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit to 140,000 working poor families, and now he wants to drug test welfare recipients—after a top staffer was caught laughing at a joke comparing them to dogs.” (That’s a reference to a satirical e-mail, cited approvingly by a Walker aide when Walker was county executive, featuring a joke about dogs who were said to be suited for welfare because they were “lazy,” “can’t speak English,” and so on.)

In the same article, Walsh attacked Walker for “his far-right political posturing, his union busting and”—comparing his supporters to dogs—“his dog-whistle politics.”

Walker’s opponent compared him to Pinocchio

Burke’s campaign highlighted her support for Common Core and Obamacare healthcare rationing and her opposition to voter ID laws. Despite her claim to care about the plight of poor people, she opposed school choice and supported raising the so-called minimum wage, which bars unskilled workers from most jobs.

Too close to call?

The race seemed close. Amanda Turkel in the left-wing Huffington Post reported that “Democrats were holding out hope that they would be able to knock off a potential 2016 presidential contender” and that Burke was “running neck and neck with Walker up until the end” and “Walker seemed worried about his re-election chances up until the end.”

The Republican national chairman, Reince Priebus, who is from Wisconsin, told Slate that Walker’s race was such a high priority that it would not be a “good night” if Republicans took back the Senate but Walker lost. “Walker represents not just the future of Wisconsin, but the future of our party and the future of people that make promises and keep promises, and whether they can be rewarded for doing those things.”

Betsy Woodruff of Slate covered Walker’s victory celebration:

“First off, I want to thank God.” Gov. Scott Walker had just come on stage at the State Fair Exposition Center to give his third victory speech in four years, and the supporters mashed up in front of the stage were totally losing it. “I want to thank God for his abundant grace and mercy,” Walker continued. “Win or lose, it is more than sufficient for each and every one of us.” The crowd exploded.

It’s nice of Walker to throw in that “win or lose” line, but he didn’t really need it. Walker doesn’t lose. The governor first got elected in 2010 by 5.8 points, won an acrimonious recall election in 2012 by 6.8 points, and looks set to win his first real re-election bid by about 6 points.

Walker’s supporters at the victory party were elated but not surprised. They argued his win was in the cards from jump street, that Democratic nominee Mary Burke’s dependence on out-of-state support backfired, and that Walker’s superhuman ability to stay on message made re-election way easier than it looked to many (including me!). The governor had a straightforward strategy, and he stuck to it.

Woodruff listed among the key reasons for Walker’s win:

► A strong grassroots organization, with 23 offices around the state. “I’ve been doing state races for 25 years,” said state Representative John Nygren. “This is the most door-to-door intensive race I’ve seen in the 25 years I’ve been around.”

►A “total non-interest in appearing with outside surrogates,” instead touring with Republican leaders in their home districts. Woodruff noted that “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also visited the state to campaign for Walker, but that’s because he invited himself.”

►Related to the above item, Walker’s ability to tap into anti-Washington sentiment.

[About a month before the election,] with Burke’s supporters outspending Walker’s, negative ads swamped the airwaves. Burke drew significant support from Emily’s List, an organization that backs pro-choice female Democratic candidates, and she also won backing from labor organizations and the president himself, who visited to hold a rally for her. Walker loyalists said that as money from outside groups and unions poured into the state for Burke and as her campaign came to be associated with its out-of-state surrogates (first lady Michelle Obama stumped for her twice), voters got recall flashbacks. . . . “I used to tell the Democrats they helped us with the recall,” [said state GOP First Vice Chairman Brian Schimming,] “because they spent so much time trying to go after him that they really turned off a lot of people.” . . .

While Walker was repeating the same simple pitch throughout the state, national labor organizations were running ads targeting the governor and Burke was hobnobbing with the president and first lady in the state’s two most liberal cities, Madison and Milwaukee. If Burke bet on this being an anti-incumbent election cycle, Walker bet on its being anti-Washington. And he bet right.

Meanwhile, as Walker won re-election, Republicans picked up seats in the state legislature.

As reported by the website Ballotpedia, Democrats had been optimistic about taking over the state Senate. “The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee listed the Wisconsin Senate as one of eight chambers [in the country] of which the Democrats could take control. In a debate with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R), Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson (D) said Gov. Scott Walker’s [low] poll numbers were a sign his party will win. Fitzgerald argued that President Barack Obama’s drop in popularity would instead help the Republicans. The Wisconsin State Senate was one of 20 state legislative chambers noted by Ballotpedia staff as being a battleground chamber.” Yet, with only half the Senate seats on the ballot in 2014, Republicans improved their margin from 17-15 (with one vacancy) to 19-14.

20150716-UW-Walker-p2-1The attempt to recall Gov. Walker was the beginning of a reform backlash

In addition, two outgoing Republican Senators described as “moderates” had been replaced by more conservative lawmakers.

In the other house, the Assembly, where all seats were up for election, the Republican margin went from 60-38 (with one independent) to 63-34 (two independents). It was the GOP’s best showing in that chamber since the 1956 election.

Regarding the Right to Work issue, Betsy Woodruff wrote on the night of the 2014 election that “It’s hard to believe that Walker would have the appetite for another round of union battles. But it was also hard to believe he would win three elections in four years, and that he would win this last one, against an opponent whose backers outspent his by a cushy margin. So here’s some analysis: When it’s Scott Walker, the unlikely is never that far-fetched.”

Backlash: Right to Work

There’s an old expression in politics, “If you shoot at a king, don’t miss.” In the matter of the unions vs. Scott Walker, unions paid the price for their failed attempts to stop Walker and his reforms. Amazingly, Wisconsin became a Right to Work state.

What happened in Wisconsin is similar to what happened in Michigan, the other state most closely associated with the union movement. That state had a longstanding truce between unions and businesses regarding Right to Work laws—that is, laws that protect workers from being forced to join a union or pay the equivalent of union dues as a condition of employment. Then, in 2012, the unions attempted to pass an amendment to the state constitution, Proposal 2, that would have given union contracts priority over state laws; would have affected some 170 existing statutes; and would have effectively given the unions control of state government on labor-related issues. Prop. 2 would have barred the legislature from ever passing a Right to Work law. Despite a $28 million union campaign for the amendment, it was voted down by 58-42 percent. That occurred even as President Obama was winning the state by nine points and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) was winning by 21 points.

Right to Work supporters pointed out that the unions had broken the truce, and they moved quickly to take advantage of the backlash against the union’s power grab. “Quickly” is an understatement: Final passage of the state’s RTW law came a mere five weeks after the rejection of Proposal 2.

Before the 2014 election, Walker and his legislative allies hadn’t expressed much interest in passing a Right to Work law that would protect workers in the private sector. As a member of the State Assembly in 1993, Walker had co-sponsored a Right to Work bill, but that was back when the idea of Wisconsin becoming a Right to Work state seemed like an impossible dream.

At the end of November, Walker’s spokesman, Laurel Patrick, was still claiming that, “As he has said previously, Governor Walker’s focus is on growing Wisconsin’s economy and creating jobs. Anything that distracts from that is not a priority for him.”

However, supporters of workers’ rights realized that they had the opportunity of a lifetime. On December 1, conservative activist Lorri Pickens announced the formation of a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting RTW in Wisconsin. She had served from 2005 to 2007 as state director for the free-market group Americans for Prosperity. She had also been a lobbyist for the pro-life group Wisconsin Family Action and campaign manager for a state constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.

Walker continued to downplay the Right to Work idea, noting on December 3 that, “As I said before the election and have said repeatedly over the last few years, I just think right-to-work legislation right now . . . would be a distraction from the work that we’re trying to do.”

On December 4, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald signaled that the issue was suddenly on his front-burner: “It’s my opinion it has to come up early . . . I don’t know how we get through the session without having this debate.”

That week, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos—who had stated during the summer that he did not intend to pursue the matter—released a statement saying he was now willing to discuss it. And State Rep. Chris Kapenga said in an interview with the MacIver Institute that he would introduce RTW legislation because, “To me, it is the single most important thing we can do to help move this economy forward.”

The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) organization polled its members and found that Right to Work was their second-highest priority after tax reductions. The poll, sent to 1,200 executives of whom 261 responded, asked what the state government could do to improve the business climate. From the eight choices provided, “reduce taxes” came in first with 35 percent, while “become a right to work state” was second with 15 percent. Asked in a January survey if they supported Right to Work, 81 percent of respondents answered yes. Over the next three months, WMC’s 501(c)(4) organization would play a key role in promoting the Right to Work idea.

They didn’t see it coming

Right to Work opponents couldn’t really believe it was happening. Used to dealing with Republicans and self-described conservatives who shy away from controversy, they kept asking: Did Walker and the Republicans really want a repeat of what happened in 2011, when tens of thousands of protesters disrupted the Capitol?

The Assembly’s Minority Leader, Peter Barca, said people would be “extremely alarmed” if an RTW measure were to pass. People would protest it like they did Act 10. The polarization would “create a schism that would take decades to overcome,” Barca told the Capital Times.

Scot Ross of the liberal group One Wisconsin Now theorized that Walker would avoid the conflict. As a potential candidate for president, Ross said, Walker would want to pass a budget as quickly and quietly as possible. “He doesn’t want the country to think every time he does something . . . Wisconsin erupts.” In fact, Ross suggested, bringing up Right to Work was a bluff and a bargaining chip; Assembly Speaker Robin Vos would use it to get what he wanted from Governor Walker.

At the end of January, the Tarrance Group, a Republican polling firm, released a poll indicating that Right to Work was far from the divisive issue that opponents claimed it was. The firm reported that 69 percent of voters supported allowing workers to decide whether or not to join a union. That included 51 percent of union households and 48 percent of Democrats.

At that point, it was beginning to become clear that Walker would do nothing to stop the Right to Work train. The spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald told reporters that Fitzgerald “has not been asked by the Governor not to pursue the issue at this time.”

By February 20, when Walker said he would sign the legislation that legislative leaders were preparing to fast-track, state officials were “bracing for potential protests at the state Capitol,” reported the Wisconsin State Journal. Fitzgerald said he gave the Governor’s office notice about the fast-tracking in order, as a news report paraphrased him, “to give officials time to plan for the possible onslaught.”

Despite the chance of riotous protests, it was time to take action. “My experience as leader is when you have the votes, you go to the floor,” said Fitzgerald.

Not all the opposition came from unions—at least, not directly from unions. The Wisconsin Contractor’s Coalition, made up of more than 300 construction-related companies (and backed by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 18), came out against Right to Work. The stated reason was that Right to Work laws interfere in private contracts between employers and employees. Critics said that the unstated reason, the real reason, was crony capitalism in the form of prevailing-wage laws. Members of the coalition support such laws, which require the payment of union-level wages on government projects. Prevailing-wage laws rip off the taxpayers—and help unionized companies—by preventing non-union companies from underbidding the unionized companies. The laws add about 20 percent to the cost of building schools, roads, and other government-funded construction. (Later, the legislators who pushed Wisconsin Right to Work would begin an effort to repeal the state’s prevailing-wage law.)

By the way, the WCC was caught in a false statement about the survey by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, claiming that “WMC’s own 2014 survey revealed that just 15 percent of business executive respondents were in favor of Right-To-Work legislation.” The Journal-Sentinel’s PolitiFact, after noting the actual results of the survey (see above), labeled that statement False. The false statement was actually part of a pattern: Anti-RTW forces kept telling themselves that Right to Work wasn’t very popular, that business people and other RTW supporters weren’t very enthusiastic about it, and that there would be an explosion of opposition to RTW legislation.

You’ve lost that protestin’ feelin’

By the time the legislature voted on Right to Work, much of the fire seemed gone from the union movement in Wisconsin. During a 24-hour debate on RTW, there was shouting from the gallery. Police removed the shouters. The gallery remained empty. About 300 protesters showed up. Two of them were arrested for screaming obscenities. By 10 p.m., most of them were gone.

News reports described the unions as resigned to the inevitability of Right to Work. The New York Times quoted a 62-year-old protester who said, “You’ve got to fight back,” but “it’s a generational process. It’s going to take 25 to 40 years to correct problems Scott Walker’s done in four-and-a-half years.”

Unions managed to bus some 3,000 workers to Madison on February 28, where, in the words of the magazine The Economist, “they rallied in frigid temperatures ringing cow bells, waving American flags and holding up signs such as ‘Stop the war on workers.’”

In the left-wing Cap Times Dennis Boyer, a retired AFSCME staff member, lamented:

How did Wisconsin go from a vibrant pro-union state to a hotbed of reactionary politics? How did we get from the Wisconsin of Bob La Follette and Gaylord Nelson to the Wisconsin of Scott Walker and his buddies the Koch brothers? . . .
I have been asked many times since the dropping of the Act 10 bomb on public employees what might have been done differently. Many thousands of union members and supporters ringed the Capitol and raised their voices. I spent many hours there and it felt hopeful. Then it was over. We didn’t raise the political costs to the level sufficient to give our enemies pause (yes, in a war there are enemies). As I left the last Wisconsin Uprising rally, I wondered, why did electric power continue to state buildings during that time (same with the steam heat) and why did school sessions continue and buses roll? It seemed like a major battle had raged and our side had held back.

It seems to me, when faced with an existential crisis, that the full array of tactics and bold measures must be considered, and, after due consideration, be deployed incrementally or simultaneously as resources and circumstances dictate. . . . There was room to organize all manner of slow-downs, sit-downs, and gumming up of the public sector. Even after the passage of Act 10, there could have been an ongoing campaign of guerrilla labor action behind management’s lines. This is the era of asymmetrical warfare, of hacking, of fragile networks of communication. Business as usual can be disrupted.

Similar and different

Unions and their supporters expressed outrage over the fact that the law seemed taken from model legislation prepared by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of conservative/mainstream state legislators that is despised by the Left. They suggested that this was somehow sinister, although the use of model legislation is very common in state legislatures—to avoid drafting mistakes, unintended consequences, and legal challenges, and to foster consistency between states with similar approaches—and the use of an ALEC model by conservative or pro-growth legislators would hardly be surprising.

Myranda Tanck, spokesman for Senator Fitzgerald, said the Wisconsin bill was modeled closely on Indiana’s Right to Work law because Indiana’s version had already survived multiple challenges in court. Using Indiana’s law as a model would ensure that the Wisconsin version was on stable legal ground.

The Wisconsin bill did have one difference. In a clever move, the Wisconsin legislation was written to take effect immediately once it became law. Recently adopted Right to Work laws in other states had a waiting period. Under the prevailing legal view, Right to Work laws affect new contracts, but do not (or might not) affect existing ones, which means that any delay gives unions the chance to renegotiate current, non-RTW contracts, and extend periods in which those contracts remain in effect, often for years. The Wisconsin legislation would slam the door on that practice. Democrats in the legislature failed in their attempt to delay the effective date by three months.

For a time, as the legislature worked on the Right to Work measure, there was speculation that Republicans might carve out an exemption for operating engineers, pipe fitters, and certain other unions that provide training for their members. After all, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139, whose members run the heavy equipment on infrastructure projects, had sometimes supported Republican candidates. For example, it gave almost $58,000 to Walker’s campaigns for governor, including some $43,000 just before the 2014 election.

There was precedent: Police and firefighters had been exempted from provisions of Act 10, and that exemption had been important to the political success of the reforms.

In the end, though, the law had no exemptions. It was decided that an exemption in the Right to Work law would make it easier to challenge in court as a violation of the Constitutional requirement for equal protection under the law.

Right to Work state #25

After eight hours of debate in the Senate, the bill passed 17-15 on February 25, 2015. Except for one Republican who voted with Democrats, it was a party-line vote.

Over that weekend, unions mobilized a protest at the Capitol led by Wisconsin AFL-CIO. The protests were pitiful affairs compared to the screaming hordes that had shaken Madison during the incendiary Act 10 debates. The roar had become a whimper.

Why? Some insiders speculate that the protests had a low turnout this time either because the unions had been exhausted physically and financially by Act 10, or because there is a relatively low unionization rate for Wisconsin’s private sector compared to its government employees. Too, events unfolded so swiftly that even if the money and anger had been there, the unions might nevertheless have been outmaneuvered by Right to Work advocates.

Approval by the Assembly, with its huge GOP majority, was a foregone conclusion. The measure passed on Friday, March 6, and was signed by Governor Walker on Monday, March 9.

Signing it was “the right thing to do for job creators and employees alike. But you know how it is: It threatens the power the Big Government Labor Bosses crave and they are going to come after him with everything they’ve got,” read an e-mail from Friends of Scott Walker.

President Obama said in a statement, “there’s been a sustained, coordinated assault on unions, led by powerful interests and their allies in government. So I’m deeply disappointed that a new anti-worker law in Wisconsin will weaken, rather than strengthen workers in the new economy.” He accused Walker of “claim[ing] victory over working Americans” by signing the Right to Work law.

“One thing is certain now,” wrote state Rep. Leon D. Young. “Scott Walker is running for president, and the state of Wisconsin is the next casualty of his blind, ruthless ambition.”

“For the scabs that choose to quit paying dues,” read an e-mail sent by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to some 1,300 members, “their names will be published and posted so members will know who the scabs are who do not pay dues.”

Ned Resnikoff of Al Jazeera wrote of RTW’s passage:

Ten years ago, the notion that traditionally union-friendly Wisconsin could become a right-to-work state would have been almost unthinkable. By last week it was inevitable. . . . That legislation . . . was a major victory for Walker, despite his earlier insistence that he was not interested in pushing right-to-work legislation. Although he never said he would oppose such a law on the merits, he repeatedly indicated that he did not want to get involved in the sort of political battle it would likely provoke.

Now that the battle is over, the Republicans in the statehouse have passed the legislation and Walker has given it his signature, he is more than happy to claim ownership. Last week he for the first time said that right-to-work legislation was something “we” proposed in early 2015—“we” meaning Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature, not just the latter. Whatever Walker’s role in shepherding this particular bill to passage, he is right to claim some of the credit for making Wisconsin a right-to-work state. The legislation he signed into law Monday was made possible by his earlier triumphs over the state’s labor movement.

His victories offer a lesson to policymakers in other states: If you intend to hobble the labor movement as a whole, go after the public sector unions first. . . . The GOP was able to push through right-to-work legislation with relative ease because the local labor movement had already been dealt a body blow. As a result, Wisconsin’s experience seems to have served as an object lesson for other governors who favor right-to-work policies. For example, Bruce Rauner, the recently elected governor of Illinois, has tried to impose right-to-work on the public sector by way of executive order.

Not the typical Republican

It should be noted that Walker had help in shifting the ideological direction of Wisconsin politics. For example, there’s the Bradley Foundation, a CRC supporter that helped fund such state institutions as the MacIver Institute for Public Policy, the watchdog group Media Trackers, and the Wisconsin Reporter, a news website backed by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

Again, Slate’s Betsy Woodruff:

Pretend you’re Scott Walker and you’ve just gotten inaugurated on a cold January day in 2011. You’re governing a state that birthed the modern labor movement and that’s been a stronghold for the blue-collar Democrats for most of the modern era. You’re in power, but your situation is—to put it lightly—precarious. How do you govern? If you were a typical governor in a typical version of that scenario, you would govern very, very cautiously. You would tiptoe. You would hedge. You would compromise. You would be Mitt Romney.

But Scott Walker is not Mitt Romney. And a large part of the reason he implemented such a proactively conservative agenda—defunding Planned Parenthood, dramatically curtailing public-sector unions’ power, passing Right to Work legislation—is because of the conservative infrastructure that simultaneously pushed him in that direction and made that direction an easy way to go.

It was the combination of a strong conservative infrastructure with Walker’s combative personality that made the Wisconsin revolution possible.

The end of the beginning?

Walker won gubernatorial races with 52.2 percent in 2010, 53.1 percent in 2012, and 52.3 percent in 2014, in a state that hasn’t voted Republican for president since Reagan—which means, one observer noted, “He compromised just far enough to win, and not one inch more. Grassroots Republicans are fed up with party leaders who wilt in the face of opposition, and they see Walker as someone who is willing to fight.” Walker’s negatives include his lack of experience in foreign affairs and the fact that elitists will make fun of him for not graduating from college. But Dick Morris, former political consultant for Bill Clinton, called Walker “ambidextrous” for his appeal to both establishment and grassroots Republicans, and said he is “the [Chris] Christie who succeeded.”

In January, Walker spoke at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, a gathering sponsored by Citizens United and by U.S. Representative Steve King (R-Iowa), a Tea Party leader. Michael Barone, the dean of Washington political analysts, likened the Walker speech to one given in the same city by another candidate.

Can a single speech at an Iowa political event change the course of a presidential nomination race? Maybe. It actually has happened. Barack Obama’s November 2007 speech at a Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Des Moines is generally credited with giving him a lift toward winning the caucuses there two months later and putting him on the path to the presidency.

Perhaps it happened again, ten months earlier in the 2016 cycle, when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker spoke January 24 at the Freedom Summit . . . Walker’s speech—one of more than a dozen—got rave reviews from the crowd and reporters present. More prominently and notably, it seems to have gotten rave reviews from a much wider swath of Iowa Republican voters. A Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll, conducted by Ann Selzer’s firm January 26-29, showed Walker leading the field of potential Republican candidates with 15 percent of the vote.

Reporters in Des Moines were expecting a boring Midwestern guy. Walker proved to be an exciting Midwestern guy—raised in Iowa for seven years, he pointed out, until his pastor father moved to next-door Wisconsin. Many activists in the crowd, but by no means all Iowa Republicans, knew that he had battled the public employee unions in Wisconsin—and that the left, which prides itself on compassion and civility—responded with riots and death threats and a June 2012 recall election. Walker won that contest as he had in 2010 and did again in 2014: three elections in four years in a state that has voted Democratic for president since 1988. . . .

[Walker] was elected County Executive three times in Milwaukee County (67 percent Obama 2012). In the 2010 primary for governor, against a candidate who had won a statewide nomination before, Walker won an amazing 76 percent in the four-county Milwaukee metro area, and he carried that metro area against Democrats in 2010, 2012 and 2014. He continues to live in the close-in suburb of Wauwatosa, which voted 50 percent Obama, 49 percent Romney: much like America.

As a likely candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Walker actually led the RealClearPolitics average of national polls in March before falling slightly behind two Floridians, former Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio. In early May, he scored a three-point lead (over Bush) in the first and most important primary state, New Hampshire.

Walker supporters see his stand against the unions as an indication of what he would do as President. They note, as Walker does, that when President Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers in 1981, his action set the tone for his entire administration in both domestic and foreign policy. It sent a message to adversaries, including the Soviets, that Reagan was not a man to be trifled with. (A 2011 headline in the New York Times called the air traffic controllers’ strike “The Strike That Busted Unions,” leading to the precipitous decline of unions in America.)

In February, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the largest annual gathering of conservatives, Walker, his sleeves rolled up, declared that, in the face of threats like ISIS, the country needs a “leader” with “confidence.” He added: “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.” That comment was characterized by the Left as Walker comparing his union opponents (and their families, of course) to ISIS terrorists; Democrats in the state legislature demanded an apology, and he was denounced in the media by the likes of Chris Matthews of MSNBC.

Each time he was denounced, the denunciation reminded future Republican primary voters of Walker’s stand against those 100,000 protesters.

Today, Republicans seem to be looking for a candidate with political courage—someone who won’t give in when the Left comes after him or her with all the weapons in its arsenal, including domination of almost all the communications media, domination of academia, and the astonishing wealth of “crony capitalists” who benefit from Big Government spending and from special treatment for well-heeled special interests. GOP voters, it appears, are sick of Republican officeholders who act as if they are in a minority on issues even when the public agrees with them. They are tired of seeing their own leaders practice the art of pre-emptive surrender. They want a fighter.

In 1980, when the economy was broken and the world was falling into the hands of America’s enemies, Americans turned to a governor who had proven his mettle by standing his ground against vicious enemies and beating them.

Will history repeat itself?

About the Author:  Dr. Steven J. Allen covers labor union organizing and the environmental movement for Capitol Research Center. He previously served as press secretary to U.S. Senator Jeremiah Denton, as editor of Tea Party Review magazine, and as senior researcher for Newt Gingrich 2012. He has a master’s degree in political science from Jacksonville State University, a law degree from Cumberland Law School, and a PhD in Biodefense from the College of Science at George Mason University.. This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of “Labor Watch” and appears here with permission.

Scott Walker vs. the Unions (Part 1 of 2)

Summary: In politics, it’s said, you’re known by the enemies you make. Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) is best known nationally for his battles with unions—from his reforms that brought 100,000 protesters to the state capitol, to the efforts by the unions to throw him out of office, to the passage of a Right to Work law. Now Walker is expected to run for president. This is part 1 of his story:

The invitation-only ceremony was held March 9 at Badger Meter, a manufacturing company near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As he prepared to sign landmark Right to Work legislation, Governor Scott Walker (R) sat with rolled-up sleeves at a table with a “Freedom to Work” sign emblazoned across the front. In front of a group that included Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Walker said the legislation he was about to sign would send “a powerful message across the country and around the world.”

Only months earlier, Walker had seemed cool on Right to Work, calling it a “distraction.” Now, with the stroke of Walker’s pen, Wisconsin became the nation’s 25th Right to Work state—the 25th state to give workers the freedom not to join a union or pay union dues.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

During the event, Rich Meeusen, chief executive and chairman of Badger Meter, said that even before this legislation was signed into law, it had had an effect: It had swayed Badger Meter management to expand in Wisconsin instead of Mexico, immediately creating 12 jobs, leading to 30 to 50 new jobs later on. (Mike Brown of the left-wing group One Wisconsin Now described Meeusen’s remarks as those of “a millionaire campaign contributor who threatened to send the jobs of hardworking skilled Wisconsin workers to another country unless the system was tilted further in his favor.”)

The signing of Right to Work was the latest blow delivered by Walker to labor unions in his state. It was Walker’s latest victory in a battle with unions that has run throughout his governorship, that made him, in the words of the publication Politico, “Public Enemy No. 1 for organized labor nationwide.” In this protracted struggle, unions have attempted to paint the governor as a rabid union-hating right-winger, and in the process they have helped catapult Walker to the top tier of candidates, declared and undeclared, for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.

The road to the governorship

Scott Kevin Walker was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on November 2, 1967. He spent his early childhood in Plainfield, Iowa, where his father, Llewellyn Scott Walker, was pastor of a local Baptist church. In 1977, Llew Walker’s ministry moved the family to Delavan, Wisconsin, where Scott became active in sports, band, and Eagle Scouts.

Walker says his interest in government began when he was in high school, where he attended the American Legion’s Badger Boys State Program. He was chosen to serve as a representative to Boys Nation in Washington, D.C., in which, according to the American Legion, “the young leaders receive an education on the structure and function of federal government.”

Walker started college at Marquette University in Milwaukee in 1986, leaving during his fourth year. (For years, Democrats claimed falsely that, as the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s website put it as late as 2013, he was kicked out “after masterminding a scheme that destroyed newspapers critical of him.” After the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s PolitiFact debunked the Democrats’ accusation, they removed it from the website.)
He worked as a financial developer for the American Red Cross and won his first political office in 1993, when he was elected to Wisconsin’s State Assembly. After four terms in the Assembly, Walker was elected in 2002 to serve as County Executive of Milwaukee. In that job, Walker says, he cut the county’s workforce by upwards of 25 percent, reduced debt by 30 percent, and authored nine consecutive budgets that did not increase property tax levies.

In 2006, he ran for the Republican nomination for governor, but dropped out before the primary. The nominee, U.S. Rep. Mark Green, lost to incumbent Democrat Jim Doyle by 45 percent to 53 percent.

When Walker ran again in 2010, he defeated former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann 59 to 39 percent for the GOP nomination. In the general election, he was up against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who was considered a favorite of President Obama. Walker won by 52 percent to Barrett’s 46.5.
When Walker was inaugurated as Governor on January 3, 2011, the state faced an immediate deficit of $136 million and a projected two-year shortfall of $3.6 billion. Wisconsin had upwards of $800 million in unpaid bills. The state’s economy was weak, losing almost 134,000 jobs in the previous four years.

Walker looked at the books and saw immediately the main culprit behind Wisconsin’s flood of red ink: the unions.

Founded in Wisconsin

In the early days of the political party system in the U.S., most government employment was based on the principle, “To the victors go the spoils”—hence, the “spoils system.” Jobs went to supporters of the winners.

In 1881, President James A. Garfield was killed by a mentally disturbed man who believed he had been unfairly denied a government job. That led to reforms such as 1883’s Pendleton Act, which set up a civil service system in which government employees were selected in competitive examinations. New York became the first state to enact such a system at the state level in 1884, followed by Massachusetts in 1885. The idea soon spread across the country.

The advantage of the spoils system was that government could be held accountable. A state’s governor or a city’s mayor could be held responsible for the successful operation of the government, with no excuse that the bureaucracy was working against him. But under that system, jobs didn’t always attract the best people, in part because government workers could be fired for partisan political reasons. The civil service system was intended to put the best-qualified people in government jobs and protect them from unfair labor practices. Over time, though, government employees came to see the advantage of combining civil service protections with unionization: Then they couldn’t be fired except under extreme circumstances, and their political clout (including money from forced union dues) made it possible for them to, in effect, hire their own bosses.

In 1932, a small group of Wisconsin state workers organized in depression-stricken Madison to “promote, defend and enhance the civil service system,” and to spread the gospel of civil service throughout the country. Their creation, the Wisconsin State Employees Union/Council 24, was soon rechristened the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and in 1936 it received a charter from the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Public-sector unionism was born.

Not only was AFSCME born there in the 1930s, but in 1959 Wisconsin became the first state to grant all its public-sector unions full collective bargaining powers. This was one of the seminal accomplishments in the history of the labor union movement. After 1959, the door opened for other state-employee unions across the nation to bargain with the very officials they helped elect, officials who were all too happy to reward union supporters with fat pensions and health plans. Unfunded and underfunded obligations piled up as pliant politicians paid off union officials with generous benefits and even more generous promises of future benefits, some of them in the far future. The political expression for what they did is “kicking the can down the road,” leaving a mess for future taxpayers and future governors to clean up. Five decades later—after the politicians and union bosses who negotiated the sweetheart deals were dead or long-retired—states and municipalities across the country faced financial ruin.

Acting against unions

Taking office as governor in 2011, Walker faced a big challenge: that $3.6 billion shortfall projected for the next two years, and the long-term unsustainability of state government. For example, the cost of public-employee healthcare plans had gone up 90 percent in the previous nine years, according to Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

Walker moved quickly. On February 11, less than six weeks after he took office, he put forth a reform plan, Act 10, that would make dramatic changes involving state employees. Act 10 required public sector union members to increase their health plan contributions to 12.6 percent, almost doubling their share but still below the national average. That reform alone was projected to save Wisconsin local governments about $724 million per year. The measure also called for public employees to contribute 5.8 percent toward their pension plans, roughly the national average.

But the biggest reforms involved the collective bargaining system. A press release from the Governor’s office explained that “the budget repair bill gives state and local governments the tools to manage spending reductions through changing some provisions of the state’s collective bargaining laws.” The state’s civil service system, among the strongest in the country, would not be changed, and state and local employees could continue to bargain for base pay. But they would not be able to bargain over other compensation measures.

Other reforms included an end to the collection of union dues by state and local governments; the option for each employee to opt out of paying union dues; a one-year limit on contracts; and a requirement for annual certification of union representation by secret ballot. Under the Walker plan, wage increases would not exceed a cap based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) unless the voters agreed through a referendum. In exchange for these reforms, Walker promised not to lay off any of the state’s 170,000 employees.

Act 10 exempted local police, firefighters, and the state patrol from the changes. That proved to be a smart move politically. First Responders—those who risk their lives to keep the rest of us safe—have strong political support, especially among Republicans, who otherwise are prone to resisting the demands of unionized public employees. In other states, reform measures have sometimes failed due to opposition from police and firefighters. Their exclusion from the Walker plan ultimately helped it succeed.

Over the next two years, it was projected, Act 10 would save the state $330 million.

The fight begins

Reaction was swift and furious. Public employee unions saw the Walker plan as a threat to their existence. On February 17, 2011, more than 20,000 pro-union protesters descended on the state Capitol to voice their opposition to Walker and his plans. “This is disgusting,” said union ironworker Sean Collins of Waunakee, as quoted in the Los Angeles Times. “Everybody in Wisconsin should be scared, because if the unions go down, everybody else’s standards will go down.”

Protesters’ signs compared Walker to Hitler, and the occupiers chanted, “This is what democracy looks like.” Some protesters carried Egyptian flags, likening themselves to protesters who had overthrown the Egyptian government earlier that month. (That revolution would lead to the takeover of Egypt by the Islamofascist-backed Muslim Brotherhood in June 2012; the Muslim Brotherhood would be overthrown in turn in July 2013.)

On February 18, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka addressed the protesters, describing Act 10 as part of a grand scheme by Republicans to bring down the unions. By February 19, the crowd had grown to some 90,000, although that figure apparently included Tea Party counter-protesters. The siege, sometimes featuring thousands of angry protesters occupying the Capitol and the surrounding area, continued for three weeks.

The national labor union apparatus moved quickly to provide logistical and public relations support for the protesters. Eddie Vale, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO, proclaimed: “All across the country, Republican governors and legislators have almost immediately [following their election victory in 2010] moved to strip working families of their rights and eliminate their unions as political payback to their Wall Street and corporate CEO donors.” Vale was referring to governors like Walker, Chris Christie (R-N.J.), and John Kasich (R-Ohio), all of whom proposed reforms related to public-sector employees.

President Barack Obama came to the defense of Wisconsin’s beleaguered unions—no wonder, since Big Labor spent a combined $400 million to help elect him in 2008, according to the Wall Street Journal. “Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain, generally seems like more of an assault on unions,” Obama said in an interview with a Wisconsin TV station. “And I think it’s very important for us to understand that public employees, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends.” (In response, Walker said, “We are focused on balancing our budget. It would be wise for the government and others in Washington to focus on balancing their budgets, which they are a long way off from doing.”)

Teachers walk off, legislators vanish

At the time, the average salary of a Milwaukee public school teacher was $56,500, on paper. But factoring in teachers’ huge benefits packages, including health care and pensions, the annual average compensation was actually more than $100,000. With per-pupil spending higher than in any other Midwestern state, two-thirds of Wisconsin 8th graders in 2009 could not read at a “basic” level.

Wisconsin teachers walked off their jobs en masse in protest of Walker’s proposals, and flocked by the thousands to the capitol in Madison. Their actions forced schools across the state to close, although they still collected their salaries.

The MacIver Institute reported: “In Madison, the school district was closed for three days after hundreds of teachers engaged in a mass sick-out so they could attend protest rallies at the State Capitol. That could cost the district $2.7 million . . . . If all the teachers in Milwaukee and Madison are paid for the days missed, the protest related salaries for just the state’s two largest districts would exceed $6.6 million dollars.”

During the protests, doctors wrote fake sick notes to enable teachers to attend the protest without having their pay docked. At least 84 teachers were caught using the fake sick notes. Conservative activists caught on tape some of the activity, including the handing out of fake notes to teachers, and the video was posted online.

The state Medical Examining Board disciplined some of the doctors, handing out reprimands, fines, and compulsory re-training. Marie Stanton, who represented at least seven of the doctors, said, “We’re disappointed that the board chose to impose that level of discipline, a reprimand, for a very technical violation.” Patricia Epstein, attorney for two other doctors, said her clients saw their visits as “community health outreach” and did not anticipate a rash of negative publicity over the matter.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported:

The state medical school disciplined 20 doctors, including fining 11 faculty members up to $4,000, for handing out sick notes to demonstrators at last year’s labor protests . . .

In several cases, doctors in more senior positions within the school also had to step away from those roles for a period of four months over one year. All the doctors were warned that further actions could result in them being fired.

Singled out for the largest fine was Louis Sanner, a physician who headed the Badger Doctors that set up a medical station to assist protesters. . . . “Sanner’s decision to openly practice medicine at the State Capitol, while intentionally avoiding the creation of a medical record, shows that his understanding and judgment are lacking,” Provost Paul DeLuca wrote . . .

“The discipline records also show that Sanner and the other physicians disciplined insisted they had acted correctly even when accepting the discipline, saying they believed they were helping public employees under stress rather than writing fake sick notes to allow demonstrators to skip work and keep protesting.

Fleeing to Illinois

Teachers weren’t the only ones to walk off the job. Not one of the state Senate’s 14 Democrats was present February 17, as the body prepared to vote on Walker’s measure. The Senate lacked a quorum of 20 members, which delayed the vote. The Governor’s Office was prepared to send out state troopers to round up the Democrats, but many legislators anticipated that move and crossed the border into neighboring Illinois.

At first, before they were tracked down by conservative activists, the Senators holed up at the Clock Tower Resort in Rockford, described by Eric Owen of the Daily Caller as featuring 245 rooms “including three exciting whirlpool suites, nine tennis courts, two basketball courts and Totally You Hair Salon. When hunger strikes, Clock Tower Resort guests can visit the Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery,” where waitresses “flaunt their cleavage and traipse around in short, plaid, Scottish-looking skirts.”

Walker and his allies had a trick up their sleeves, though. They stripped the bill of its fiscal measures—which eliminated the need for a quorum. Senate passage was secured, and the legislation was signed by Walker on March 11, a month after he proposed it.


Throughout the protests, Big Labor and their allies on the Left played rough. On February 27, on NBC’s Meet the Press, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was asked if placards depicting Walker as Hitler were “inappropriate” or “wrong,” he refused to answer.


On March 3, “police reported finding dozens of rounds of live ammunition outside the Capitol,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal. “Dane County deputies found 11 rounds near the State Street entrance . . . Twenty-nine rounds were found near the King Street entrance, and one round was found near the North Hamilton Street entrance” to the Capitol.

On March 9, Republican Senators received an e-mail that read, “Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your families will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks. Please explain to them that this is because if we get rid of you and your families then it will save the rights of 300,000 people and also be able to close the deficit that you have created. I hope you have a good time in hell. Read below for more information on possible scenarios in which you will die.”

On March 14, Investor’s Business Daily reported: “State Sens. Pam Galloway, Glenn Grothman and Joe Leibham were among more than a dozen Republicans sent e-mails with messages such as ‘Death threat!!!! Bomb!!!!’ A note shoved under Grothman’s door said, ‘The only good Republican is a dead Republican.’ He has stories of getting obscene phone calls in the middle of the night. Two Republicans, state Sen. Randy Hopper and state Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, feel so threatened that they backed out of marching in Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the city of Fond du Lac.”

The Daily Kos reported in June 2011 on the anti-Walker efforts that followed the passage of the Walker reforms:

For months, protesters have been dogging Gov. Scott Walker’s every move, protesting his every appearance. For this entire past week, there’s been an encampment set up along two sides of the Capitol Square, an around-the-clock presence with a topically-themed presence for every day of the week around which to organize marches and awareness-raising events.

In May, a blood drive in the Capitol rotunda had to be rescheduled when protesters’ loud singing made it impossible for the Red Cross workers to take people’s confidential health histories without shouting.

A few days later, more than 20 anti-Walker protesters, upset over the Walker budget including the labor reforms, disrupted an event celebrating Special Olympics athletes. As Walker stepped to the podium, the protesters, dressed as zombies, went to the front of the audience and turned their backs on Walker, blocking cameras and the view of the athletes who had come to meet the Governor and hear him praise their accomplishments. (At this writing, video of the event is on YouTube under the title “Wis. Union Protesters Disrupt Special Olympics Ceremony.”)

The shrillness of the protesters reflected the speed with which the reforms were weakening the public-sector unions, who could no longer force members to pay dues or even to remain on the union rolls. The Racine Journal-Times reported on December 10, 2011:

One area teachers union has lost all bargaining power and another has completely disbanded in relation to Gov. Scott Walker’s legislative changes to public union rules.”

The North Cape School District teachers union last week did not get a majority of members to vote for recertification, something now required annually because of Walker’s changes, which also limited collective bargaining for teachers unions to minimal wage increases. Without recertification, the union can continue to exist but is no longer able to collectively bargain with the district. Of North Cape’s 18 teachers union members, five voted for recertification Thursday while six voted against it, according to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission. North Cape union officials did not return phone calls Friday.

The Yorkville School District teachers union did not hold a recertification vote, instead voting earlier this fall to simply disband.

By October 2014, was reporting:

Given no choice but to join and pay dues to the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) for decades, teachers have for the last three years been able to opt out. And that is what tens of thousands have done as a result of Gov. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, also known as Act 10. . . . The bill essentially requires the WEAC to mount a recertification drive every year to ensure that a majority wants its representation. The Act also prevents public sector employers from automatically collecting dues and passing them along to unions.
Since June 2011, teacher enrollment in the WEAC has dropped nearly a third from nearly 100,000 members, and the smaller union AFT-Wisconsin has fallen more than half from its peak membership of 16,000. “As soon as I was given the choice, I left,”

Amy Rosno, a teacher with the virtual class program at the Waukesha school system, told “I never really understood the union anyway.”

Walker’s reforms are credited with reducing public employee union membership in the state from 187,000 in 2011 to 138,000 in 2013.
Last February, Robert Samuels of the Washington Post looked at the effects of the reforms.

At the old union hall here on a recent afternoon, Terry Magnant sat at the head of a table surrounded by 18 empty chairs. A members meeting had been scheduled to start a half-hour earlier, but the small house, with its cracked walls and loose roof shingles, was lonely and desolate. “There used to be a lot more people coming,” said Magnant, a 51-year-old nursing assistant, sighing.

The anti-union law passed here four years ago, which made Gov. Scott Walker a national Republican star and a possible presidential candidate, has turned out to be even more transformative than many had predicted.

Walker had vowed that union power would shrink, workers would be judged on their merits, and local governments would save money. Unions had warned that workers would lose benefits and be forced to take on second jobs or find new careers. Many of those changes came to pass, but the once-thriving ­public-sector unions were not just shrunken—they were crippled. Unions representing teachers, professors, trash collectors and other government employees are struggling to stem plummeting membership rolls and retain relevance in the state where they got their start.

Here in [the community of] King, Magnant and her fellow AFSCME members, workers at a local veterans home, have been knocking on doors on weekends to persuade former members to rejoin. Community college professors in Moraine Park, home to a technical college, are reducing dues from $59 to $36 each month. And those in Milwaukee are planning a campaign using videos and posters to highlight union principles. The theme: “Remember.”

The recall

It wasn’t always clear that Walker’s reforms would survive. Indeed, it wasn’t clear that Walker’s political career would survive.

In 2011, after union organizers failed to stop the reform package, they moved to Plan B: going after the governor and others who supported him.
The preliminary bout involved David Prosser, a former Speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly who had been appointed to the Supreme Court by Gov. Tommy Thompson in 1998 and was elected without opposition to his first full term on the Court in 2001. With his 10-year term expiring, he was up for re-election on April 5, 2011.

The election turned into a referendum on the Walker reforms, which would have to make their way through the state’s courts. An estimated $4.5 million, perhaps a million more, was spent in the race. A “Progressive” 501(c)(4) organization called the Greater Wisconsin Committee ran ads against Prosser that accused him of making “sexist slurs” against the court’s left-wing Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson (who was described as “one of America’s most respected judges”) and of failing more than 30 years earlier to prosecute a Catholic priest for child sexual abuse. The ads used old video that, as described by a journalist, had him “looking like Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon.”

At the first count of the votes on Election Day, it appeared that Prosser had lost to Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, but, two days after the election, the Warren County Clerk said that she had erroneously omitted 14,000 votes from her tally. That shift gave Prosser a 7,000-vote victory.

To reverse the Walker reforms, “Unions and their supporters immediately turned to the state Constitution to exact their revenge,” wrote Christian Schneider of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. “In 1926, voters approved a change to the Wisconsin Constitution that provided for the recall of state officials if a petitioner could gather 25 percent of the signatures cast in the previous gubernatorial election for the relevant district. In Wisconsin’s history, only two state elected officials had been successfully recalled,” one Senator after he reneged on a promise not to include Racine in the tax jurisdiction for financing a new baseball stadium, and another Senator after he went to prison.

Unions and their allies vowed to take Wisconsin’s state Senate in a special election August 10, 2011, by defeating six Republicans who voted for the reform measure. (The other GOP Senators hadn’t served long enough to be eligible for recall.) The anti-Walker forces poured a reported $28 million and countless hours of work into the effort. Schneider wrote:

Little of the pro-recall money was spent trying to convince the public of the righteousness of the unions’ collective bargaining position; instead, ads were run accusing the senators of cutting school funding, reducing health services funding, and giving tax breaks to big business. Someone wandering into Wisconsin from another state would have no idea what these senators did that warranted their recall from office.

Republicans held four of the six seats and kept their Senate majority. (Of the two Republicans who lost, one was in a heavily Democratic district and the other had been caught in an extramarital affair with a 25-year-old capitol staffer.)

Republicans also attempted to unseat three Democratic Senators in recall elections, but were unsuccessful.

As for Walker, unions promised to gather a million signatures demanding that Walker face Wisconsin voters again.

They didn’t reach the one-million goal, but they got enough signatures to force Walker back to the polls less than halfway through his term.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Walker’s 2010 opponent, leapt at his second chance against Walker. Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, supported by such unions as AFSCME, SEIU, AFL-CIO, and the Wisconsin Education Association Council, also sought the Democratic nomination. The unions ran a smear campaign against Barrett to help Falk win the primary.

A union-circulated video claimed that Barrett was a supporter of Walkers’ collective-bargaining reforms; it used out-of-context video of Barrett to back up that false claim. The uproar against the ad forced AFSCME to admit that it was “over the top”: “While we used poor judgment in directing our members’ attention to an Internet video that went over the top to make its point, we believe it is essential to bring attention to Barrett’s record on collective bargaining.”

Barrett didn’t support Walker’s reforms, but he certainly used them against unions in his city, Milwaukee. So, in the May 8, 2012 special primary, when Barrett won the Democratic nomination overwhelmingly—58 percent to 34 percent for the union candidate, Falk—it was clear that collective bargaining reforms did not much disturb Democratic voters. A spokesman for Wisconsin’s Democratic Party, Graeme Zielinski, told Mother Jones that “Collective bargaining is not moving people.”

The same day, Walker won the Republican primary with 97 percent, leaving Wisconsin voters just under a month to prepare for the same choice they faced in 2011, between Walker and Barrett.

The recall campaign received nationwide attention from the media and from contributors and activists. Mike McCabe from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a watchdog group, said both candidates were swamped with extraordinary levels of money. By late May, the unions had pumped upwards of $14 million into the campaign to bring down Walker, according to the MacIver Institute, a free-market thing tank in Wisconsin.

Leigh Ann Caldwell of CBS News reported on May 30 on the resources being poured into the state:

Walker’s policies have motivated Democratic-aligned unions—according to AFL-CIO spokesperson Amaya Tune, union head Richard Trumka likes to say that Walker should receive “the mobilizer of the year award.”

Democrats have sought to make the recall election a referendum on conservative economic policy, not just in Wisconsin but nationally. Last week, the DNC sent a fundraising appeal to its supporters, which says: “Of all the elections we are preparing for in 2012, one of the most important ones isn’t happening in November.”

Local and national teachers unions have joined with the public sector union, the American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the AFL-CIO to defeat Walker, spending more than $5 million. National progressive groups are also involved, with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee announcing Tuesday that it has spent another $100,000 on the recall efforts, bringing their total to more than a quarter million dollars.

“He is still very, very unpopular. He took on and attacked workers,” Trumka said during a recent interview on C-SPAN’s Newsmakers program.

But Gov. Walker had been notably successful at raising money. The Associated Press reported at the time that, since January 2011 (17 months earlier), Walker had raised over $31 million. In the last five weeks before the special election, Walker outraised his Democratic Party opponent $5.9 million to $3.4 million.

Walker also showed that he knew how to attack effectively. Referring to Mayor Barrett’s use of the Walker reforms against unions in his own city, Walker labeled the mayor a hypocrite: “It’s not me saying it, it’s his own employees .  .  . over and over again calling him a hypocrite.”

Meanwhile, as the election approached and it became apparent that Walker would win, the Obama political machine dialed back from its expected level of involvement, not for lack of ideological commitment, but out of fear that Obama’s open involvement would backfire—and perhaps out of fear that a defeat would diminish the President.

Barrett took great pains to emphasize that the recall vote wasn’t about national issues: “I want to make sure that everybody understands this is about Wisconsin values. It’s not about Washington, D.C. It’s about right here, who is going to control the future of this state? Will it be tea party, the national right wing? Or is it going to be the state of Wisconsin, and I’m putting my money on the people of the state of Wisconsin.” CNN’s Candy Crowley reported:

Fueled by the power of organized labor, the passion of the Tea Party and millions in outside money, it is politics gone wild in Wisconsin.”

The recall race to oust Republican Gov. Scott Walker has pretty much seen it all—except for President Barack Obama.

Tom Barrett, the Democratic mayor of Milwaukee who hopes to oust Walker, reads nothing into that: “No, because we understand that he’s got a lot going on,” [Barrett] told me on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

There is little else [going on] in the political world right now ,and some Republicans suggest the no-show president means the White House believes Barrett will lose. Walker is less direct:

“I don’t know what it says, but I think it’s interesting,” the governor told CNN affiliate WLUK-TV on Sunday. “Two years ago, the president came in for our opponent. He’s not here now. On Friday, he made three stops in the Twin Cities, to my understanding, three stops in Chicago so it’s kind of hard to argue you weren’t nearby.”

A top Obama adviser insists the president and company are committed in Wisconsin—after all, what better way to say “we’re with you” than a lot of money and dozens of lawyers.

“We poured upwards of a million dollars of resources into that race, our entire field operation is committed to it, we’ve got hundreds of lawyers up there for voter protection programs, so we’re invested in it and we’re very much in the corner of Mayor Barrett,” campaign strategist David Axelrod said.

Unsurprisingly Election Day, June 5, saw a significant union turnout. A survey published by the Washington Post found up to one third of all votes were from union households.

To the union bosses’ dismay, however, Walker won, and it wasn’t even close. His victory was clear within an hour after the polls closed, and he won by 53 percent to 46 percent, a larger margin than he enjoyed when he first became governor. His running mate, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, also won, just a fraction of a point behind Walker. Scott Walker was the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election.

For those who hope to save state and local governments from the unfunded-liability death spiral, the Walker victory was a godsend. Writer and venture capitalist Bill Frezza wrote in Forbes:

Public sector unions have reached their high water mark. Let the cleanup begin as the red ink recedes.”

Despite a last-minute smear campaign accusing Scott Walker of fathering an illegitimate love child, the governor’s recall election victory sends a clear message that should resonate around the nation: The fiscal cancer devouring state budgets has a cure, and he has found it. The costly defeat for the entrenched union interests that tried to oust Walker in retribution for challenging their power was marked by President Obama’s refusal to lend his weight to the campaign for fear of being stained by defeat.

Meet John Doe

Whenever the Left can’t get what it wants through the democratic process, it turns to other means. Note, for example, the Obama administration’s Internal Revenue Service scandal, targeting the President’s critics.

The IRS scandal has a counterpart in Wisconsin: the so-called “John Doe” raids by which corrupt officials sought to get revenge on supporters of the Walker reforms and to cripple their ability to exercise their First Amendment rights.

Conservative, libertarians, and free-market groups were hit with subpoenas demanding “all memoranda, email . . . correspondence, and communication,” both within each organization and between the various organizations. The 29 targets included Wisconsin Family Action, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the Republican Governors Association, the Republican Party of Wisconsin, Friends of Scott Walker, and the Wisconsin branch of Americans for Prosperity. Also demanded were “all records of income received, including fundraising information and the identity of persons contributing” to the organizations.

The raids were conducted under the pretext of an investigation into campaign finance law violations. But the advocacy groups were involved in promoting their views on issues, not expressly promoting any political candidate’s election or defeat, so their activities were protected even under narrow interpretations of the First Amendment. The victims of the raids couldn’t have committed a crime because no crime was committed.

The raids were what lawyers call “a fishing expedition,” aimed at getting information—in this case, spying on the pro-Act 10 groups, obtaining intelligence on their strategies, tactics, and relationships and on the names of donors. In the American Spectator, Jon Cassidy compared the case to the scandal that brought down President Nixon and noted:

There never would have been any Cubans breaking into the Watergate to take a look at the files of the Democratic National Committee or plant bugs. [Nixon aides] G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt could have just written subpoenas for whatever they wanted without restriction. When there’s nobody to stop them, it turns out that what they want to look at is everything.

The prosecutor in the case, Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm, is married to a former shop steward for the teachers’ union. A former prosecutor in Chisholm’s office said that the office was decorated with the Blue Fist symbol of the Wisconsin union movement and said that Chisholm “felt it was his personal duty” to stop the Walker reforms.

The Left in recent years has increasingly made use of donors’ list to intimidate people with whom they disagree, getting people fired from their jobs, barring companies from doing business on certain college campuses and in entire cities, and turning regulators and prosecutors on businesses in hopes of ruining them.

As the Wall Street Journal editorialized, “The disclosure of conservative political donors has become a preoccupation of the political left across the country. In the heat of the fight over Governor Walker’s reforms, unions urged boycotts of Walker contributors and published a list of Walker donors for boycotting.”

It’s become more frequent lately, but it’s not a new practice. At the height of the Civil Rights movement, officials sought to obtain donors’ lists in order to conduct intimidation campaigns. As noted in a legal brief by the Cato Institute:

In NAACP v. Alabama, the Alabama Attorney General’s office said it needed to gather information about the NAACP’s members in the course of its investigation into whether the nonprofit advocacy group should be registered as a foreign corporation under Alabama law. . . . Although the [Supreme] Court did not come right out and say so, it plainly saw the state’s “investigation” of the NAACP for what it was: a transparent effort at intimidation and retaliation for First Amendment activities. . . . In Dombrowski v. Pfister, civil rights activists sought injunctive relief to prevent a group of Louisiana officials from prosecuting or threatening to prosecute them under anti-Communist laws, which were being used as a pretext to retaliate against the activists for advocating for the constitutional rights of black citizens. The activists were arrested, their offices were raided and files seized, and the state authorities repeatedly announced that their organizations were subversive and under investigation. . . . As [in Wisconsin], these events had a substantial chilling effect on the groups’ protected activities: the investigation “frightened off potential members and contributors,” and the seizure of records “paralyzed operations and threatened exposure of the identity of adherents to a locally unpopular cause.”

The term “John Doe” refers to an unusual feature of Wisconsin law that makes the First Amendment violations particularly nasty: the victims aren’t even allowed to tell people what happened to them.

David French wrote in National Review Online about the abuses committed against supporters of Walker’s Act 10.

For dozens of conservatives, the years since Scott Walker’s first election as governor of Wisconsin transformed the state—known for pro-football championships, good cheese, and a population with a reputation for being unfailingly polite—into a place where conservatives have faced early-morning raids, multi-year secretive criminal investigations, slanderous and selective leaks to sympathetic media, and intrusive electronic snooping.

Yes, Wisconsin, the cradle of the progressive movement and home of the “Wisconsin idea”—the marriage of state governments and state universities to govern through technocratic reform—was giving birth to a new progressive idea, the use of law enforcement as a political instrument, as a weapon to attempt to undo election results, shame opponents, and ruin lives.

In this case, French reported:

Cindy Archer, one of the lead architects of Wisconsin’s Act 10—also called the “Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill,” it limited public-employee benefits and altered collective-bargaining rules for public-employee unions—was jolted awake by yelling, loud pounding at the door, and her dogs’ frantic barking. The entire house—the windows and walls—was shaking. She looked outside to see up to a dozen police officers, yelling to open the door. They were carrying a battering ram.

She wasn’t dressed, but she started to run toward the door, her body in full view of the police. Some yelled at her to grab some clothes, others yelled for her to open the door. “I was so afraid,” she says. “I did not know what to do.” She grabbed some clothes, opened the door, and dressed right in front of the police. The dogs were still frantic.

The police barged in on her domestic partner in the shower. When Cindy tried to get some coffee, she was told to sit down or be handcuffed. The officers made a mess of things; her dead mothers’ belongings were strewn across the basement. They left with a cellphone and a laptop.
Another woman told French of heavy pounding at the door, following by armed men pouring into her house, her family cornered, their computers and smartphones seized. A third woman recounted that she answered the door in her pajamas, and the police came in, and “the kids woke to an armed officer standing near their beds. . . . [T]he police carried off their personal possessions, including items that had nothing to do with the subject of the search warrant—even her daughter’s computer.”

The victims were told not to tell anyone about the raid. Under the “John Doe” rules, they could not defend themselves publicly from the assumption that they must be guilty of something.

Court filings described the effects of the raids—just the sort of thing the Supreme Court feared in cases like NAACP v. Alabama—from the perspective of Eric O’Keefe of the Wisconsin Club for Growth:

O’Keefe’s associates began cancelling meetings with him and declining to take his calls, reasonably fearful that merely associating with him could make them targets of the investigation. O’Keefe was forced to abandon fundraising for the Club because he could no longer guarantee to donors that their identities would remain confidential, could not (due to the Secrecy Order) explain to potential donors the nature of the investigation, could not assuage donors’ fears that they might become targets themselves, and could not assure donors that their money would go to fund advocacy rather than legal expenses. The Club was also paralyzed. Its officials could not associate with its key supporters, and its funds were depleted. It could not engage in issue advocacy for fear of criminal sanction.

Regarding the SWAT-style raids, O’Keefe said, “Every family I know of that endured a home raid has been shaken to its core, and the fate of marriages and families still hangs in the balance in some cases.”

In a political prosecution like this, there’s no need for a guilty verdict or even a trial. “The process is the punishment,” said O’Keefe.

Meanwhile, the raids had the effect of making Scott Walker look like he was up to no good. “Indeed,” columnist George Will wrote, “one probable purpose of [District Attorney] Chisholm’s antics was to generate content for anti-Walker ads” in the 2014 gubernatorial election.

Next week in part two: Unintended consequences: The unions’ attacks on Scott Walker lead to Wisconsin becoming a Right to Work state, and may give Walker the chance to do at the national level what he did in Wisconsin.

About the Author:  Dr. Steven J. Allen covers labor union organizing and the environmental movement for Capitol Research Center. He previously served as press secretary to U.S. Senator Jeremiah Denton, as editor of Tea Party Review magazine, and as senior researcher for Newt Gingrich 2012. He has a master’s degree in political science from Jacksonville State University, a law degree from Cumberland Law School, and a PhD in Biodefense from the College of Science at George Mason University.. This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of “Labor Watch” and appears here with permission.

Can Californians Learn from Progressive Wisconsin and Confront Government Unions?

During recent travels to Madison and Milwaukee for some research about reform-minded Gov. Scott Walker’s survival of a union-backed recall in June, I found little residual anger among the friendly folks there, despite the campaign’s seemingly endless pitched political battles that divided families and led to angry water-cooler discussions.

Perhaps the central issue – Walker’s Act 10 plan that rolled back government union collective-bargaining excesses – has been resolved, or perhaps Wisconsinites simply got tired of two historic recall elections, legislators who bolted the state to avoid voting on legislation, constant national media attention and union protesters swarming the Capitol and screaming into their bullhorns.

Midwestern culture values community and being “nice,” and the battle of Wisconsin strained the social fabric. California residents, typically oblivious to events east of the Sierra Nevada, owe a debt of gratitude to the folks in Green Bay Packer country. Had Wisconsin voters replaced their governor and other reform-minded Republican officials, the message would have been heard nationwide: Pension reform, and efforts to rein in the public-sector union power at the root of the problem, would be dead for years.

Instead, Walker is becoming a national GOP figure. Another budget reformer from Wisconsin, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, is on the GOP presidential ticket. And Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, from Kenosha, Wisc., will no doubt tout the Wisconsin reforms as Republicans gather in Tampa this week for their national convention.

Wisconsin’s Progressive political tradition rivals California’s, which only highlights the disparity between the two states as California’s leaders refuse even to acknowledge fiscal reality, let alone confront it in a serious way. Walker and his reforms were sparked by a $3.6 billion budget deficit, which is a rounding error in California budget terms. But his understanding of the core issue – the abuses perpetrated by the privileges and greed of public sector unions – may date to his stint as county executive in Democratic Milwaukee County, where he had to clean up an ugly pension scandal in which government workers were granting themselves outrageous bonuses.

Bruce Murphy, writing in the Madison alternative weekly the Isthmus, said, “In the bitter aftermath of the failed recall, there will be many blaming a vast right-wing conspiracy, out-of-state billionaires like the Koch brothers, and Gov. Scott Walker’s polarizing, take-no-prisoners style. But Democrats and unions might want to take a look in the mirror. For it was their willingness to abuse government benefits – with sweetheart deals benefiting only a minority of workers – that led directly to defeat.”

In California, sweetheart deals are a daily occurrence. In San Francisco, police and fire officials are granting themselves half-million-dollar payouts as they leave government “service.” The ranks of the $100,000 pension club are escalating rapidly, even as the Moody’s credit-rating service warns of a coming tsunami of municipal bankruptcies across the state.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which has been through a disgusting “pay for play” scandal, believes that bankrupt Stockton ought to stiff its bondholders – the same ones who bought $125 million in city pension bonds to help it make good on pension promises it couldn’t afford – rather than trim the lucrative pensions received by city retirees.

Meanwhile, cities slash public services, and the state’s leadership demands higher taxes even as they embrace costly new programs (i.e., high-speed rail) that will mainly benefit government employees and special interests.

The ongoing state parks funds scandal is a poster child for the problems here. As the San Jose Mercury News reported this past week, “With state leaders scrambling to find out how state parks officials kept tens of millions of dollars hidden for more than a decade, California’s top finance officials … acknowledged what could be a far bigger problem: They have no system in place to account for $37 billion in ‘special funds’ scattered throughout state government. Instead, finance officials revealed, they rely on an honor system to track money that could be stashed away in untold accounts similar to the funds that … [sparked] a scandal in the state parks department.”

Parks officials were allowing many parks to face potential closure while they had money “stashed away” in hidden accounts. Thanks to this “honor” system, dishonorable state employees were granting themselves huge vacation buyouts, all done secretly, communicating through Post-It notes to “avoid a paper trail,” as the Sacramento Bee reported.

This is the same basic storyline repeated across the state: Government is not serving the people; the people within government are serving themselves. This touches on the nature of government, although overly large and unaccountable systems are more plagued by such corruption.

As the free-market writer Frederic Bastiat wrote, “The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.” We should at least recognize the truth and not deceive ourselves about talk of “public service.”

These attitudes – the raiding of public treasuries for personal gain, the refusal to rein in unsustainable pension benefits that dwarf those earned by most people in the private sector – reflects a “corruption” of public service, in the words of San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, a progressive reformer. That’s what these debates are about, and what people in Wisconsin – despite the discomfort of it all – decided to hash out in a series of elections and budget reforms.

Unfortunately, Californians are steadfastly avoiding that needed debate. Perhaps voters here are still burned out from the 2003 recall election, in which voters booted a terrible governor and replaced him with someone not much better. Or perhaps it’s a reflection of California “exceptionalism” – the idea that the normal rules don’t apply here, and that we can have everything without making any tough choices. Either way, we need to learn some lessons from the Badger State and have our defining debate over unions, or watch helplessly as cities go under, and services evaporate.

<em>Steven Greenhut is vice president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.</em>

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Surly Unions Make Wisconsin the Badgering State

Before Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker became a recall target for his efforts to reform collective bargaining in his state, I was a guest on a Madison radio show discussing the influence of public-sector unions and the significance of the state’s unfunded pension liabilities.

Instead of “Wisconsin Nice” – a euphemism for the polite, conflict-avoiding nature of Badger State culture – I faced a torrent of angry callers who accused union critics of trying to destroy the quality of life for working people. I asked one caller: What do we do about unfunded liabilities, those debts that current pension promises place on future generations?

“I won’t answer your question,” he said, refusing to dignify this perfectly reasonable question with a response.

The radio show was a preview of what was to come in Wisconsin – a season of angry diatribes, militant union marches, not-so-nice attacks on a governor who, after all, has done nothing more than reform a debt-laden system and has actually saved union jobs and saved unions.

Rather than engage the issues, the Left has chosen to echo the approach taken by callers to that radio show – stomp their feet, yell and scream and absolutely, positively refuse to provide an alternative path.

There’s something bizarre in all this, a reminder that the once-proud movement of working people has morphed into an upper-middle-class movement of coddled public employees who do not care about debt levels and eroded public services. They have their gold-plated pensions, and no one had better touch them or else.

Progressives used to pride themselves on their desire to help the poor, but in Wisconsin these days they’d rather throw the poor under the bus – a public bus, of course, with a union driver – to protect the relatively wealthy class of workers who administer government programs. So we’ve watched the antics – legislative Democrats heading to Illinois to deny the governor a quorum for his budget vote; truckloads of union activists and boatloads of union money pouring into the state capital; attempts to portray Walker as someone who is destroying the state.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the recall. Wisconsin’s economy is rebounding, its debt receding. The state is gaining jobs everywhere except in downtrodden Milwaukee, where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett serves as mayor, and where union control has its tightest grip.

At this late stage in the race, it’s purely a numbers game as both sides bring out the ground troops to get their voters to the polls.

Democrats will surely resurrect dead voters in Milwaukee, so I’m hoping that Walker’s margin of victory – poll late last week showed his lead at 5 to 7 points – is strong enough to exceed the expected margin of voter fraud.

Both sides are being careful, avoiding anything that might backfire.

For the pro-recall movement, that means desperately avoiding the central issue. For instance, the Barrett campaign website features a story on Walker’s supposed attack on hunting – yes, hunting – because of a privatization effort he is spearheading. Walker’s website isn’t too much better, as it focuses on crime problems in Milwaukee.

Many national pundits are focusing on the implications for the national presidential race, and on President Barack Obama’s chances of being re-elected. There are some clues in it, as national Democrats steadfastly avoid the state. But we all know that the Walker recall is a referendum on public-sector union reform.

One of the nation’s biggest problems involves public employees, their compensation levels and the degree to which their special privileges and demands are destroying public services and bankrupting cities, especially in California. Wisconsin is arguably an even more progressive state than California. It was the first state to allow public-sector workers to evolve into the equivalent of Teamsters.

But California has taken the matter much further than anywhere else in the nation.

California used to be the model for the nation in terms of public services. But without political competition, there has been no push-back as the unions grab more and more. No wonder the Golden State’s roads are crumbling, and our services are tarnished. The only answer from the union movement and their Democratic patrons, including Gov. Jerry Brown: higher taxes. The real question is whether Wisconsin voters want their state to turn into California but without the warm winters.

In particular, the Wisconsin governor recognized that collective bargaining is the core problem, in that it remains the key obstacle to improving public services through competition and truly progressive reform.

“The collective-bargaining component of Walker’s plan has yielded especially large financial dividends for school districts,” Christian Schneider of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute wrote in City Journal magazine. Individual districts have saved millions of dollars because they can send their plans out to bid rather than buying from the union-monopoly health trust. That’s money they used to save teaching jobs.

Progressives should applaud; instead, they march on Madison. What phonies.

While California’s government is hopeless, we are seeing serious reforms at the municipal level, often spearheaded by progressive Democrats. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is promoting a pension reform initiative on Tuesday’s ballot, and he’s doing so with support from progressives in his city. Reed says there’s a big difference between union Democrats and progressive Democrats. The former are protecting one special interest group, and the latter have the public good in mind. It’s a compelling argument as we head into the final days of the Wisconsin recall.

If Walker wins, reform will spread across the country. If he loses, Wisconsin will head down the path of California or maybe even Greece, where rising debt, soaring taxes, a surly union movement and crumbling public services will be the order of the day. No wonder the recall movement wants to play on emotion rather than answer serious questions.

Steven Greenhut, based in Sacramento, is vice president of journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Write to him at

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Wisconsin Recall Outcome to Set the Tone for November

Last August, Big Labor attempted to undue Governor Scott Walker’s initiative to cure Wisconsin’s massive debt, incurred as a result of years of Big Labor collective bargaining gone wild. The plan was to hold recall elections on six state Senate Republicans in order to regain the majority in the Wisconsin senate, but the plan failed miserably. Big Labor was confident that the pressure created through its foot soldiers would encourage voters to oust all six Republicans.  However, only two were defeated, leaving the majority of the state Senate to the Republican Party and preserving the Governor’s laws to reign in Big Labor and its collective bargaining monopoly.

Now Big Labor is after Governor Scott Walker in a recall election which is certainly The Most Important Non-Presidential Election of the Decade.  Democrats, however, can’t seem to get on the same page.  Big labor’s candidate, Madison County Executive Kathleen Falk, faces opposition from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barnett, who recently shot himself and the Democratic Party in the foot when he proved Governor Walker’s point by utilizing the Governor’s union reforms to balance his city’s budget. Interestingly enough big labor seems tied to the same old insanity of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results despite the fact the Union Backed Candidate in Wisconsin Recall Faces Fight.  A reader of my blog, and an excellent businessman in his own right, recently described Big Labor’s refusal to recognize individual achievement and to provide services its members would embrace.

“One of the key Democrats who might run against Walker used Walker’s reforms to balance his own city’s budget.  Wow!”

I like to say no one ever complains about being in a 401k after a year of participation.  A solid 401k savings plan leads to capital accumulation opportunities amongst workers that are simply invaluable.

The same can be said of unions, but in reverse.  No one misses them when they are gone, never.  Even the union members who run around like zombies feel much better when they are vaccinated and wake up to their own amazing human potential.

And that’s the fundamental issue.  Unions deny the immense human potential of the individual and insist society must be governed and organized through the collective.  That way of thinking sounds anachronistic and silly today.  No one really thinks we are “cogs” in a machine any more.  Businessmen who think that way, well, they don’t stay businessmen very long (they go work in the government).  The only people who continue to spout the “workers are replaceable cogs” bit are the union leaders.  This thought process is anachronistic and outdated, which is why no one ever misses unions when they are gone.

Wisconsin’s teachers, appear to agree and are growing tired of Big Labor tactics and control (see Teachers Losing Love for Unions). They are realizing it is not they whom the public despises, but the big labor organizations that represent them.  If teachers had the true ability to opt out under a state or federal “Right to Work” law, they would most likely vote with their feet and leave. While many states allow teachers to abstain from union membership, they are tethered to the union by still having to pay union dues or adhere to collective bargaining unit terms. This is just another form of perpetuated forced unionism.

Forced unionism is the goal of Big Labor. This is true both in the public sector, as described in Public Unions: Last Hope for Big Labor at America’s Expense, and in the private sector as chronicled in my new book The Devil at Our Doorstep. Big Labor has nothing tangible to sell in this day and age, so it increasingly relies on thuggery instead of salesmanship or finesse, to force employees into unionism against their own will (see Union Thugs Know Where You Live).  Big Labor depends on employee and employer intimidation and crony politics to survive, as they are nothing more than Gasping Dinosaurs, attempting to avoid extinction. Bravo to Governor Walker and the citizens of Wisconsin for seeing the light, looking the bully in the eye, and not flinching during the August recall elections. Will the citizens of Wisconsin to stand behind the man that had the intestinal fortitude to make it all happen and re-elect Governor Walker? Will the rest of the states follow Wisconsin’s lead and keep the tsunami moving by curtailing public sector collective bargaining, and enacting RTW laws?

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” as well as the just released sequel, “The Devil at Our Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.