Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker won re-election against Democratic challenger Mary Burke in a race labor unions were keenly interested in.
Back in 2011, Walker and the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a state law, known as Act 10, which significantly changed the collective bargaining process for most public employees within the state.
The law prohibited collective bargaining on anything beyond raises tied to inflation, and eliminated automatic union dues deductions from worker’s paychecks while also requiring them to contribute more to their health insurance and pensions.
With this win, these policies now can continue without being repealed or significantly changed.
Campaign officials for Walker have relentlessly defended his polices and even stated in a press release, “Under Governor Scott Walker’s leadership, Wisconsin’s economy continues to move in the right direction. Our state is estimated to have a surplus in the next budget, unemployment is the lowest since 2008 at 5.5 percent, and 8,400 private sector jobs were created last month alone.”
Act 10 did more than change labor policy in the state; it divided the country with many on the right praising the reform and many on the left condemning it. Some even saw it as the final nail on Walker’s coffin, first triggering a recall and then a competitive re-election race.
The recall election at the time was supported by many unions, including the Service Employees International Union and their Healthcare Wisconsin affiliate, who said in statement that they joined “United Wisconsin in their efforts to recall Governor Scott Walker. The citizens group, United Wisconsin, will spearhead efforts to recall Walker and begin circulating petitions.”
The divide between supporters and critics stayed fairly consistent throughout the election. A YouGov poll taken just a few days prior to voting showed Walker leading with 45 percent of the vote, while Burke held a close 43 percent.
The AFL-CIO, a national labor union, became one of the most vocal critics of Walker and his labor reform policies. The union’s president, Richard Trumka, said after the law was passed, “What we’ve seen in Wisconsin from the beginning is an arrogant disregard for the voices of working people.”
He added, “Our politics is broken. Gov. Walker and Senate Republicans may forge ahead to undermine middle-class families, voting rights and more, but they will not be able to do it without full and close scrutiny.”
Last month, Trumka predicted on MSNBC that Walker would lose this election because of these labor reform policies.
Back in April, when the Wisconsin state affiliate of the AFL-CIO made their endorsement for Burke, they stated, “Gov. Walker has attacked workers’ wages, protections and collective bargaining rights, dismantled voting rights, enacted hyper-partisan redistricting lines, and failed to create good jobs for hard-working Wisconsinites.”
Though Walker and his labor policies have faced tough criticism, they have also gained support from many groups– including a few unions.
For the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139 (IUOE), it was an issue of job creation that made them ultimately decide to support Walker.
Local 139 President and business manager Terry McGowan told The Daily Caller News Foundation, “My biggest concern is if Gov. Walker loses this race, a lot of the jobs opportunities that have opened up during his four year tenure will close.”
Walker is now likely to be viewed as a possible 2016 presidential candidate.
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