In 2011, Wisconsin and Ohio became the first two states to adopt legislation revoking government union bosses’ privilege to get public servants fired for refusal to pay dues or fees to an unwanted union after having previously passed a statute explicitly authorizing forced union dues in the government sector.
In the Buckeye State, Big Labor recouped and launched a quick counterattack. The union hierarchy’s subsequent triumph in Ohio was due in part to its GOP governor and legislative leaders’ reluctance to launch a vigorous defense of the reforms they had enacted over the monolithic opposition of union-label Democrats. Ohio’s public-sector Right to Work law never even took effect, and was wiped off the books in a November 2011 referendum engineered by the union machine.
In Wisconsin, however, the labor-policy and budget reform package known as Act 10 remains on the books today, despite multi-million-dollar efforts to destroy it by union bosses. A union lawsuit designed to gut Act 10 is now before the state Supreme Court, but at a recent hearing a majority of justices on the court appeared to be quite skeptical of Act 10 foes’ case.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker led the charge for Act 10. His tireless advocacy was undoubtedly instrumental to the measure’s passage. Union bigwigs and their militant followers will surely never forgive Walker for that.
But the governor, who is preparing to run for reelection next year, apparently thinks he can dampen union chieftains’ hostility by pledging not to do anything to protect private-sector employees’ Right to Work. At a meeting this past week with editors of the Christian Science Monitor, Walker suggested that it wouldn’t be worth the fight to try to prohibit the extraction of forced union dues from private-sector employees and the minority of public employees whose Right to Work was left unprotected by Act 10. (See the link below.)
But countless thousands of pro-Right to Work Wisconsinites can’t understand why the freedom of choice of private-sector employees is any less worth fighting for than the free choice of teachers, state employees, and municipal employees. And contrary to what Walker suggested to the Monitor editors, both in 2010 (before Act 10 took effect) and in 2012 the number of private-sector Wisconsin workers under union monopoly bargaining was substantially higher than the number of public-sector workers.
Moreover, while Act 10 has greatly benefited the state by protecting public servants’ free speech and by empowering government employers to manage employees more efficiently and effectively, Wisconsin’s private economy does not yet seem to have benefited from a spillover effect.
For example, in 2012 private-sector compensation in the Badger State increased by just 1.6%, 33% below the national average and roughly 60% below the average for the six Midwestern Right to Work states. Every single Midwestern Right to Work state registered higher private-sector compensation growth than Wisconsin. In Indiana, whose Right to Work law took effect in early 2012, real compensation growth was well over twice as great as in Wisconsin.
The fact is, Scott Walker can’t possibly convince Big Labor to hate him less by perpetuating private-sector forced union dues. If he hopes to have a relatively easy re-election campaign next year, his best bet is to work hard for reforms that will expand freedom and accelerate economic growth. Actively campaigning for a state Right to Work law, just as he previously did for Act 10, would fit the ticket.