In Wisconsin, Big Labor politicians help make right-to-work case

Mark Mix President, National Right to Work
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Every two years, compulsory unionism’s corrupting influence on America’s political system is on display. Union officials funnel huge sums of money, estimated to be in excess of a billion dollars, into federal, state and local elections.

This money comes straight from union treasury accounts that consist overwhelmingly of dues and fees that millions of workers are forced to fork over as a condition of employment.

A large share of those sitting in Congress and state legislatures, and on city councils and school boards, depend upon Big Labor’s forced dues-fueled largesse to remain in office. Since they’re well aware of which side their bread is buttered on, they consistently fight with determination and zeal to perpetuate and expand union bosses’ special privilege to extract money from unwilling employees as well as voluntary union members.

All this has been well known for decades. But only very rarely do the American people get a chance to see how union-backed politicians react when this crooked system is threatened.

One of those unusual instances is occurring now, thanks to the blanket media coverage of the ongoing confrontation between Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker and his allies on one side and government union bosses and their favored politicians on the other.

On February 15, Walker infuriated the union hierarchy when he introduced legislation (S.B. 11) that would abolish forced union dues for teachers and many other public employees. S.B. 11 would also sharply limit the scope of most government unions’ monopoly-bargaining privileges. For this, union bigwigs and their militant followers have compared the governor to Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mubarak, and, occasionally, Satan.

If anything, the reaction of Badger State politicians who are dependent on the union political machine has been even more virulent. In the most notorious display of rage yet, Big Labor Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) shouted “You are f***ing dead!” at his Republican colleague Michelle Litjens (Winneconne) as the Wisconsin Assembly was poised to cast its final vote to pass the Walker reform.

It is still not clear whether Hintz intended to direct his coarse threat solely at Litjens, or whether his aim was to intimidate all S.B. 11 supporters in the chamber and Litjens simply had the misfortune to be in his immediate vicinity. Days later, Hintz admitted to making the threat (hard not to do, given that many people heard him) and apologized, but professed surprise that anyone might have taken his vulgar remark “personally.”

This is the sort of outlandish behavior for which a legislator gets condemned even by fellow members of his party caucus. But nearly a week after the incident, those expecting Wisconsin Democrats to speak out against Hintz’s shocking breach of decorum were met with the sound of crickets. When forced-dues political money is at risk, Big Labor politicians apparently agree that the standard rules of decency go out the window.

That this is the consensus among union-label assemblymen is confirmed by their blasé reaction to a second ugly incident that occurred just a few minutes later, after a right-to-work measure passed. Big Labor Rep. Chris Danou (D-Trempealeau) threw a stack of papers and a cup of water across the aisle, lightly dousing several lawmakers who had favored the legislation. Had an ordinary citizen done this, he would have been immediately cuffed and escorted out of the building. But Danou simply went on with his business and has yet to apologize.

While mainstream media outlets have been slow to report about either of these incidents, millions of Americans are now learning about the bitterness with which union-label politicians are defending their forced dues-funded campaign machines. And now citizens are beginning to understand more clearly than ever before why no union official, whether government or private-sector, should ever have been granted forced-dues privileges in the first place, and why it is absolutely necessary to revoke those privileges in order to clean up our political system.

Thanks to the 14 union-backed Senate Democrats’ attempt to flee the state to deny S.B. 11 proponents a quorum — and the resulting legal battle over the bill — the effort to restore the right to work for most Badger State public employees remains in limbo for now. But the outrageous antics of union-boss politicians like Mr. Hintz and Mr. Danou could prove to be very costly to Big Labor over the long run, and not just in Wisconsin.

Mark Mix is the president of National Right to Work.