In the wake of the Scott Walker win in Wisconsin, big labor, whose temper tantrum forced this ridiculous recall election, should be shaking. When the governor first implemented his reforms, which (despite liberals crying as if the world was ending) were quite modest, the Unions had all the momentum. The president spoke out publicly for their cause, they were able to rally crowds of people to protest, and they successfully began the fourth recall of a state’s governor in US history. If I had been a leader in one of the big unions at the beginning of this election, I would have been planning ahead to how they should carry their momentum over into Ohio and other states that had implemented reforms to public sector employee unions.
Unfortunately for them, however, Governor Walker’s reforms began to work. Unemployment came down. Given the choice, many workers began to choose to leave the union. Deficits were drastically cut. On paper, this should have been good for everybody in Wisconsin, but the unions and the left did not see it that way. When Walker’s reforms began to work, it seemed that the previously unchecked clout of public sector employee unions in Wisconsin was hurting the state’s economy overall. This is not news to most people; even President F. Roosevelt, the father of the American welfare state, knew that unionizing government workers was an awful idea. But, it took away the unions’ selling point that they helped the state and protected workers. If more people can work without the unions, then why would the public support the unions, especially during recession?
The recall effort saw this, and pretty quickly changed their tune. The left did not completely abandon the union issues, but they certainly did not try to focus on them in the last weeks. They went with personal attacks and flirting with the voter-intimidation-line instead. If they had focused on Scott Walker’s reforms, however, then I believe the 7 points margin that Walker won by (larger than his initial win margin in 2010) would have been even larger. The need to switch took a lot of the energy out of the left’s campaign though, and put it into the Walker camp’s. With tampered down energy, the unions garnered smaller crowds, raised significantly less money, attracted fewer big-name Dems to actively campaign (with the notable exception of Bill Clinton), and only received a last-minute tweet of support from the sitting president. By contrast, the fiscal conservatives supporting Walker raised unprecedented amounts of money for the recall election (not that it made too much difference according to this AP study), attracted nearly every big-name Republican governor in the nation (but to be fair, Romney was notably absent), and had support from across the nation.
Now the question is what does this mean for Public Sector Unions’ (traditional supporters of the Democrats) power nationwide. Well, it means that they likely do not have the momentum to try to overturn established reforms because they will be focusing on preserving what is left of their power. State officials from both parties (Democratic Governor Cuomo is demonstrating this to a lesser degree in NY right now) have just seen that it is possible to go after the lavish pensions and benefits guaranteed by Public Sector Employee Unions as a means of balancing budget sheets.
San Diego and San Jose, California just overwhelmingly approved measures to scale back the lavish public sector union benefits in their cities. Certainly, if two major cities in California have already turned on the Unions, then they should absolutely be afraid of what comes if the economy gets worse or Republicans do particularly well in the November election.