Wisconsin unions’ Trojan horse

Andrew Langer President, Institute for Liberty

In politics, the most successful warriors are persistent. That should serve as a warning to anyone tempted to shout “mission accomplished” when a campaign is finished, since your opponents will likely be back.

Such is the case with Wisconsin’s unions. Thoroughly repudiated by Wisconsin’s electorate in their quest to defeat Governor Scott Walker (and his agenda), they’re far from down-and-out. They did as any student of history might expect, taking stock and turning their attention to the immediate goal of rebuilding.

And what better way to pad their depleted coffers and reverse the tide of declining membership than to focus on the proposed Menominee Casino in Kenosha? This casino, initially rejected by the Bush administration for not being located on actual Menominee reservation land, was recently approved by the Obama administration. The only difference between the two applications was the possibility that this casino would be unionized, a first in Wisconsin’s saturated casino marketplace.

It’s a distinction that cannot go unrecognized. The rise of Governor Walker represents a threat to Democrat agendas nationwide — especially the kind of activist progressivism represented by President Obama and his progressive army. The administration’s fight for card-check, the mechanism that would undo the secret ballot process and grease the wheels of compulsory unionization in workplaces around the country, was something they had promised organized labor early on.

Contrast this with the clear and indisputable successes of Governor Walker — despite intense (some might say bordering on paranoid and reactionary) opposition from labor, the governor was able to pass a conservative, free-market reform, putting the state on the right fiscal track and handicapping the unions. Progressives are understandably concerned about Walker’s legacy, and how his success might be repeated elsewhere.

With the approval of the Kenosha casino, the Obama Administration gets a “three-fer”: they do something in support of big labor, they do something to support the Indian tribe that supported Walker’s opponents, and they get to assist in creating a Trojan horse aimed squarely at dismantling the gains made by Walker in Wisconsin.

The stakes are simple: a unionized casino with estimated revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars would achieve two very clear results: new union manpower and new union dues. Thousands of the former and millions of the latter. It would give unions the funding and support they need to renew their attack on Governor Walker.

What is particularly devastating is that all of this is couched in the rhetoric of creating jobs and serving the free market, neither of which are true. According to the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, the casino would lead to no net gain of jobs, and in fact Milwaukee could possibly lose 3,000 jobs as a result. Moreover, given the government intervention in this industry, the market is hardly free. It is essentially the equivalent of a cartel, and the approval of a tribal casino on non-tribal lands sets an incredibly dangerous precedent.

Nevertheless, the debate over this issue has become sufficiently muddled that despite the clear dangers proposed by this casino, Governor Walker may still be considering approving it.

That would be a huge mistake. Not because it is casino gaming, and not even because it is simply a new casino (in a saturated market).

It would be a mistake because it threatens the successes Governor Walker has had. Unionized employees are not a benign force. Unionized employees are a ready army for whatever agenda Wisconsin’s progressives are pushing. Remember, despite the claims of the left, the right has never paid protestors to protest. But union members are paid to protest. Their buses are paid for, they’re given meals and swag.

Should Governor Walker approve this casino, there is the distinct potential for thousands of unionized Kenosha casino employees to be the next team of footsoldiers screaming in Wisconsin’s capitol building — and while they might not be facing down Governor Walker directly, they would be facing his conservative heirs, to dismantle the good works of Walker and his successors. There’s a precedent for this: It’s precisely how the left defended Senator Harry Reid in Nevada.

Andrew Langer is President of the Institute for Liberty, a free-market/limited-government advocacy organization based in Washington, DC.