The Labor & Employment Blog is a forum for practitioners and Bloomberg BNA editors to share ideas, raise issues, and network with colleagues.
Friday, June 8, 2012
by Michael Rose
Supporters of organized labor were dealt a major blow this week,
when a largely union-funded effort to unseat Wisconsin's Republican
governor, Scott Walker, failed in a recall election. After a vote widely seen as
a referendum on Walker's anti-union policies, voters kept him in
office by a margin of 7 percentage points over his Democratic
challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Democrats and labor unions were angry over Walker's bill to
slash collective bargaining rights for public employees, a move
that inspired weeks of protests in Madison last year. After
gathering more than 1 million signatures to initiate the recall, Walker remains in
In interviews with Bloomberg BNA, labor analysts said the recall
election could foreshadow coming action by anti-union politicians
and groups, who may become bolder in their policy goals.
"This tells Republicans they can do the talk radio agenda or Tea
Party agenda and survive politically," Mordecai Lee, a professor of
governmental affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee,
said. "So I think Republican governors and Republican
legislators around the country are saying, 'let's do what Walker
did because if he could survive after everything they threw at him,
we can do it too.'"
Lee added that he would not be surprised to see further efforts
to implement state right-to-work laws, and more attacks against
public sector unions.
But AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka emphasized the positive,
including the fact that Democrats gained a majority in the
Wisconsin Senate. He said he was proud that so many union members
and progressives had fought hard in Wisconsin to make Walker
account for his anti-union agenda.
"We knew a recall election would be tough and we knew we would
be outspent,'' Trumka said. "In the end, though, the best-funded
politician in state history spent more than $50 million to hold on
to state office, but he could not hold on to a majority in the
And, Trumka said, the state saw that workers and unions won't
take attacks against them lying down.
It will be interesting to see how organized labor rebounds from
the defeat in Wisconsin going into the heat of the
presidential race, especially after many observers start
declaring unions down for the count. In the Washington Post, blogger Chris Cillizza said
organized labor had "the worst week in Washington."
But what happens between now and November is anyone's guess.
In other labor news this week:
to post a comment.
Public Sector Roundup: Will Sequestration Continue Into Fiscal Year 2014?
Q&A: When Does an OFCCP Audit Become Litigation Worthy?
Congressional Roundup: Republican Comp Time Bill Gets a Vote
Labor Stats and Facts: Decertifications Are Down, but Unions Shouldn't Celebrate
EEO Roundup: Valuing Employment Discrimination Claims