AUGUST 21, 2013

After Walker Reforms, Wisconsin Workers Kick Government Unions to the Curb

Guy Benson

7/23/2013 1:55:00 PM – Guy Benson

When the Left celebrates “choice,” they’re generally talking about one macabre subject. They’re studiously anti-choice on a host of other issues, because liberty doesn’t always work out so well for them (via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel):

Wisconsin’s public employees are leaving their unions in droves, which should be no surprise: With passage of Act 10 in 2011, public unions in the Badger State lost many of their reasons for being. The “budget-repair bill” pushed through the Legislature by Republicans and signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker limited bargaining to wages only, and then only up to the cost of living; it also required unions to recertify each year and barred the automatic collection of union dues. Relying on federal financial records, the Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice found union membership has declined by 50% or more at some unions, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 48, which represents Milwaukee city and county workers. It has gone from more than 9,000 members and income exceeding $7 million in 2010 to about 3,500 members and a deep deficit by the end of last year. Walker inherited a budget mess from the administration of former Gov. Jim Doyle. He was facing a sizable deficit and entrenched public sector unions that had big political power bases that they used to protect their members. That often put them at odds with both good government and overburdened taxpayers.  It was necessary to ask more of public workers — to have them pay a larger portion of their benefits. In particular, Walker needed to get control of spiraling health care benefits.

We touched on this effect a little over a year ago, and it seems the trend has continued.  The editorial above goes on to complain that Walker’s non-fiscal measures, such as requiring annual union re-certification and ending compulsory dues-paying, were unnecessarily political.  He pandered by exempting first responders!  His GOP “coup” damaged Wisconsin’s political climate!  Yes, he did exempt first responders, which I’m confident was a savvy and calculated move.  Whenever these sorts of reforms are proposed, Statists employ the strategy of holding up police and firefighters as popular ‘victims’ of the cruel, cold-hearted reformers.  Walker denied his critics this turn-key demagoguery.  This is known as smart politics.  As for the political climate, Republicans introduced a controversial bill; liberal lawmakers fled the state to avoid votes while Leftists occupied the capitol, spewed vile hatred, and leveled chilling threats.  Who is primarily responsible for the incivility in Madison, again?  Livid and defeated, Democrats launched a costly do-over election campaign against Walker, indicting him with some of the objections raised in this editorial.  When the dust settled, the people of Wisconsin decisively chose to let Governor Hitler McDivisive retain his job.  Walker won by a larger percentage, and with more raw votes, than in his original race.  Now, as their membership craters, Wisconsin’s government unions despair. Behold, the wages of choice.  Government union workers — the very people who opposed Walker most strenuously — have discovered that their membership isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be:  These dues aren’t worth it…I can spend my own money better…buh-bye.

It’s this phenomenon that explains government union bosses’ vituperation and desperation throughout 2011 and 2012.  The anti-Walker hordes weren’t out there for “the children,” or to champion any of the other arguments they trotted out.  The calculation was pretty straightforward and self-interested, really. They knew this law would spell their demise because it would liberate their own people to evaluate the true value of membership, and to say no thanks.  And oh by the way, Walker’s budget reforms have proven to be a demonstrable success, an outcome the Journal-Sentinel editors concede.  Walker is up for re-re-election next year.  His campaign announced yesterday that he’s raised $3.5 million so far in 2013, 80 percent of which has flowed from small donors.  He enjoys a modest but stable positive approval rating.  Divided and demoralized Democrats are struggling to recruit a name opponent to run against him.  Some national conservatives may blanch at isolated remarks he’s made about one hot-button issue, but Walker’s record in Badgerland speaks for itself.  He’s been a strong, fearless, effective conservative reformer, who’s beaten the Left like a drum, and plunged his remaining opposition into a state of disarray.  If he wins next year and keeps his train chugging along, these whispers will grow louder.  As they should.


Editor’s note: A version of this piece is cross-posted at Hot Air.