More than a week after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s reelection, the feud between organized labor and the governor still goes strong.
On Wednesday, Walker talked to NBC News about a range of topics, including labor unions. Walker noted that the AFL-CIO and other major unions “all said I was their number one target in the country” during the midterms.
“Because we took their power away,” Walker stated. “We took the power away from the big government special interests in Washington and we put it in the hands of the taxpayers right here in our state and in the end the taxpayers decided they wanted the power to stay with them and not these big government special interests.”
Walker first became a major union target because of his labor reforms, known as Act 10, which significantly changed the collective bargaining process for most public employees within the state.
However, Walker explains that Act 10 has many benefits, including saving the “state and local taxpayers over $3 billion.”
He went on to say, “In fact, property taxes in this state, this December, are lower than they were four years ago when I started.”
“The nice thing is, it’s not just about the money saved,” Walker continued. “Our schools have no seniority or tenure requirements anymore, they can hire and fire based on merit, they can pay based on performance, they can actually put the best and brightest in the classrooms.”
“It’s paid off,” Walker concluded. “Four years in a row our graduation rates are up, third grade reading scores are up, ATC scores are up and now second best in the country.”
Unions were unhappy about Walker’s reelection
In a statement released the day after the election, the AFL-CIO declared, “Months of unprecedented spending by corporate billionaires on television ads failed to turn voters against the idea of an economy that is built on a foundation of raising wages. This fact transcended simple Democratic and Republican political labels.”
The union noted voters supported labor-backed initiatives like raising the minimum wage.
At the same time, the AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka, declared in a statement, “The defining narrative of this election was confirmation, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Americans are desperate for a new economic life.”
Trumka went on to say, “But the fact of the matter is that people are disillusioned by endless political bickering and eyed these elections with great dispirit. In way too many elections, they got a false choice.”
He added, “In these very difficult times, they did not a get a genuine economic alternative to their unhappiness and very real fear of the future. But when voters did have a chance to choose their future directly – through ballot measures – their decisions are unmistakable.”
Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, is worried about Walker copycats.
“They will look at what Scott Walker did in Wisconsin, and they will try to replicate that,” Saunders told The Wall Street Journal.
Madison Teachers Inc (MTI), a union representing employees at Madison Metropolitan School District in Wisconsin, blamed the outcome of the election on voter turnout. Union leaders hope this won’t be a problem when they vote for recertification by November 25 of this year. Act 10 requires unions to hold recertification votes every year.
“We had a lot of people yesterday who didn’t vote in that election, and we can’t have that in a recertification election. They have to vote if they want to continue to be represented,” MTI Executive Director John Matthews told local Channel 3000.
He added, “If they want us to continue to represent them in bargaining wages, they need to make sure that they vote because it isn’t just a majority of those who vote, it’s a majority of those who are eligible to vote.”
Union opposition to Walker will remain strong through a possible 2016 Republican presidential bid.
“Scott Walker has sinisterly shown us the reality of how money pollutes politics,” Trumka tweeted on election night, adding, “Everybody knows Scott Walker does not share Wisconsin’s values and cares more about his own political ambition.”
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