Republican Governors Fought Labor Unions and Lived to Tell the Tale


Rick Snyder
Rick Snyder / Facebook

While the Republican reconquest of the Senate was widely anticipated, things had seemed a little shakier for certain Republican gubernatorial candidates in the run-up to the election. The Senate candidates were expected to ride a wave of anti-Obama sentiment to Washington, D.C., but back in the states, Republican politicians who challenged the powerful labor coalition could have been in trouble.

But Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, both Republicans, won re-election yesterday, proving that it's possible to kick the hornet's nest and walk away unscathed.

Walker, known for pushing tough reforms on public sector unions, has now survived both a recall attempt and a re-election campaign. Snyder, who signed a right-to-work bill into law, guided Detroit through municipal bankruptcy, and reined in public sector unions, was marked for death by Big Labor in blue-ish Michigan. But he prevailed as well—by a less-close-than-expected margin of four points.

Big Republican wins in the states will probably produce some results that are unfriendly to libertarian positions, particularly on social issues. But as far as labor reforms go, Republican gubernatorial victories were a massive validation of the effort to combat bankruptcy-inducing government employment levels and curb the runaway power of unions.

Read more from Reason on why the power and influence of teachers unions seems to subsiding here.


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  1. Big Republican wins in the states will probably produce some results that are unfriendly to libertarian positions, particularly on social issues.

    Help me out here. Other than the labor fight, I haven’t followed Walker’s SoCon agenda.

    What is it?

    1. Tonette and I have a strong belief in the protection of all innocent life. That is why our family believes in the sanctity of all human life ? from conception to natural death. I am 100% pro-life.

      In my campaign for governor, I am proud to have been endorsed by Wisconsin Right to Life, which recognized my long commitment to right to life issues and noted that my election “would greatly contribute to building a culture of life where the most vulnerable members of the human family are welcomed and protected.”

      I was also endorsed by Pro-Life Wisconsin which said that a Walker Administration “will have far-reaching, positive effects for Wisconsin citizens who value the dignity of all innocent human life.”

      1. Needz moar dead babies, then him ok.

    2. Like many Americans, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has softened on the issue of same-sex marriage. Going back to 2005, he was a staunch supporter of traditional marriage, and as recently as 2010, he reportedly “opposed a new state law that allows gay couples to register with counties to get certain benefits, such as hospital visitation rights.” But his views have shifted.

      Around March of 2013, Walker started suggesting that opposition to gay marriage was “generational,” and that it was wiser for Republicans to focus on economic issues. And just this week, after the Supreme Court decided not to weigh in on on the decision striking down Wisconsin’s gay marriage ban, his administration announced they would recognize same sex marriages, going back to June.

      1. Because apparently gay marriage and abortion are the only cultural issues that matter. God Reason sucks sometimes.

        1. Those are the two big ones. I could look for more, but from what I have seen, that’s usually what people mean when they talk about “social issues”.

          1. Funny thing is, abortion and gay marriage are only “big” for a small fraction of the population, in a practical (not ideological) sense. What percent of women have abortions? What percent of the population is gay, much less wants to be married? The first is a minority situation and the second is a very minority situation.

            1. Well, both issues are instances where laws that were voted on by people were then overturned by judges–sometimes by Federal judges. That might have something to do with the interest in both issues.

              1. True. I don’t think abortion would have been a huge issue if the SC hadn’t horned in with Roe and later decisions. If it had been left to the states, it would have been much less contentious.

        2. The link about abortion came from Walker’s campaign site. It was under the tab labeled “Values”, and was the only item within that category.

          The “same-sex marriage” info I had to search for.

      2. Thanks, Cav.

        I’m seeing a position on “the sanctity of life” that is a trifle to the SoCon of the majority of Americans, and a position on gay marriage that could not be more mainstream.

        I’m scared.

  2. But we are informed that the unions are just poor underpaid servants getting together for justice!…
    “Pargo|11.3.14 @ 12:56AM|#
    Public school teachers total about 3.3 million and approximately 127 million people voted in the last election. Even if they all voted, teachers would represent about 2.5% of the voters. In addition, teachers are paid about the median family income in the U.S., so they don’t have excessive economic clout. Exactly how does this small, economically modest, group capture elected officials?”

  3. Walker didn’t just survive the union campaign money. He also survived the targeting of his supporters by a Democratic DA.…..osecutors/

    The Wisconsin John Doe investigation was one of the worst abuses of state power to happen in the Obama years.

    1. “The result of your investigation has been to silence my organization as well as countless others, prevent them from raising funds, and otherwise interfere with their operations,” O’Keefe wrote. “That is likely a benefit for Ms. Burke’s campaign, and the facts suggest that this may have been your intent all along.”

      So…Walker’s opponents managed to legally silence some of Walker’s supporters and he still won?


  4. Walker’s win is one of the best stories of the night, in my opinion. He has now won three elections for Governor; I wonder if it is despite his opposition to the Public Sector Unions, or because of it.

    Organizations that once loomed large on the political landscape are showing that they no longer have teeth. I really would like to see any videos of Ed Schultz today.

    1. Both.

      The Unions have had a strangle-hold on power for a long time, and they have built up a lot of opposition. Walker’s win is a paradigm shift – the unions have lost *just enough* power that their grip has been shattered. They are still going to use everything they’ve got to try to hold on, but they aren’t pulling popular support. Just the money and the machine is keeping them going.

  5. In Rhode Island the Democratic candidate fought public labor unions and survived as well.

  6. On the other hand, Pa. Gov. Corbett never went to the mat with the powerful teachers union (thanks to wishy-washy GOP legislators) but the teachers tore into him anyway and won. Better, I think, to have fought the unions tooth and nail and energized the conservatives for whom taking on the Penna. teachers union would have been red meat.

    1. I’d have considered voting for Corbett (minus the Frein debacle) if he’d shown any guts on that issue or any others.

  7. My Wisconsin friend let me know on Facebook that Walker only won bc of gerrymandering. I tried esplainin that, but he’d have none of it.

    1. You mean only people in Wisconsin were allowed to vote for Governor of Wisconsin? Democracy is dead…

      1. *Doffs hat and places hand over heart*

  8. The midwest’s days as “blue” states are numbered.

    Given the decline of unions, along with the Democratic party’s shift towards race-based identity politics and culture war issues, there is less and less reason for midwesterners to vote Democratic.

    If you look at the demographics, we really have a huge racial divide growing, with the Republicans pulling overwhelming majorities of Whites, and the D’s pulling blacks and Hispanics.
    The D’s also pull white progressives on the coasts, but none of those things apply to the largely white, middle or working class, socially moderate, populations of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Iowa, Indiana and Illinois.

    If the D’s coalition starts looking more and more like Blacks plus Hispanics plus coastal liberals, that is going to start pushing more and more midwesterners into the Republican party. The only thing keeping them voting D is farm subsidies and unions, and both issues are cracking. The D’s are going to break on farm subsidies given bugetary pressures, and the only unions that matter politically are going ot be public sector ones.

    Furthermore the Republicans are known to support heavy industry much more (keystone, automobiles), and the industrial base in the Midwest is going to want that. The climate change industry works directly against the interests of midwesterners.

    Both from a political and a cultural standpoint, it’s practically inevitable that the midwest will go red.

    1. Bugetary pressures sounds like a good name for a tribute band to The Village People.

    2. Despite the demographics, Republicans still have big problems in MN as a whole and the sections of the upper Midwest bordering the Mississippi where IA, WI, IL, and MN come together. Whatever they’re offering there is working and I bet they go to those wells as a blueprint to gain back some seats.

      1. *Whatever the Democrats are offering.

      2. I think someone else pointed out some wierdness about that area and how it was geographically kind of irregular as well. Rocky highlands with lots of deep ravines. I’m not sure what the explanation is, but it may have something to do with the kind of economic base that the area has. Possibly a mining labor union stronghold or maybe small family farmers. Not sure.

        1. Whatever the explanation, I doubt that the numbers in that area are going to be powerful enough to sway the rest of the state that much.

      3. Looked it up. It is called the “Driftless Region”.
        It is a largely rural area that is characterized by wildlife refuges and small organic farms making artesianal products. Also winemaking and other niche products.

        So basically this is where the hippies of the midwest went to get back to the land. It’s not really shocking that they lean left because they get their bread and butter from selling “organic” products at a premium, since they are less efficient than the larger industrial farms on flatter pieces of land. The area is less agriculturally productive in terms of yields per acre, but the products are higher dollar value, because they have focused on organic and artesianal markets.

        Actually I could see these people going libertarian if they ever realize that a free market for things like raw milk cheese is in their interest. Heavy regulation of the farm industry isn’t something that benefits them.

        My guess is that the Democratic alleigance is mostly cultural with a side of farm subsidies for small farmers. But I bet the Republicans could make inroads there by focusing on deregulation of agriculture and small business. Those small farms probably have a tough time dealing with all the regulatory bullshit from the FDA and the USDA, and other agencies.

  9. Also, on culture war issues, midwesterners are moderates. They aren’t flaming liberals like in coastal cities, and a lot of the culture war rhetoric doesn’t sit well.

    That doesn’t mean they like southern Baptist god-botherers any better, of course. But if the Republican party can manage to shut up about religion, they stand a good chance of being perceived as “normal Americans” by midwesterners, instead of liberal freakazoids, which makes a huge difference. When choosing between Southern rednecks, liberal freaks, and normal middle-class Americans, you want to be perceived as normal middle-class Americans.

    1. May midwestern Republicans become culture war draft dodgers.

  10. Unions are a dying force in American politics. In fact, union membership rates across the liberal market economies have declined dramatically, but there has also been a significant decrease in union membership rates among continental market economies like Germany. Even the nordic/social democratic countries have experienced a small decline.

    Union coverage rates, however, have really only significantly declined in liberal market economies (Germany is an exception) like Australia and New Zealand. Interestingly, Switzerland has maintained a coverage rate of about 50% for decades.

    Unions and businesses in the United States seem to have a particularly poor relationship with one another (reflection of social mistrust in general?). In the past, this may have hurt us in some ways, but since unions are fading away it is kind of becoming irrelevant. Business groups and American consumers/voters have undeniably won the war in the United States. The Ghent System clearly helps unions in the Social Democratic countries, but it looks like even they have moderated themselves in order to survive as well.

    1. Cn i see ur poll #s?

      1. See here:

        I was going off the numbers released in 2011 and this is the latest version released about 1.5 years ago. I doubt they vary by much though.

        There’s also a report from a liberal think tank that used the same data:…..011-11.pdf

    2. The_Millenial|11.5.14 @ 12:13PM|#
      “Unions are a dying force in American politics.”

      No kidding?
      “Heavy Hitters: Top All-Time Donors, 1989-2014”
      2. National Education Assn $73,795,236 3. American Fedn of State, County & Municipal Employees $66,986,218
      I think you conflate private-sector unions with pub-sec unions. The later are growing quite well, thank you:

      “As private-sector unions have withered, public-sector unions have grown dramatically. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, in 2009, for the first time ever, more public-sector employees (7.9 million) than private-sector employees (7.4 million) belonged to unions. Today, unionized workers are more likely to be teachers, librarians, trash collectors, policemen, or firefighters than they are to be carpenters, electricians, plumbers, auto workers, or coal miners.”…..tor-unions

      1. Ooops. Cut this adding the link:

        3. American Fedn of State, County & Municipal Employees $66,986,218

      2. For the time being, public sector unions have their share of political power, but their growth potential is limited given that a substantial percentage of public employees are not allowed to establish a union (depending on their local or state laws) and they are desperately trying to ward off challenges. I reckon we’ll see other governors try to mimic Walker’s approach in the future.

        Overall, the US’ union membership rate is quite low and their political influence has no doubt suffered.

        1. “their growth potential is limited given that a substantial percentage of public employees are not allowed to establish a union (depending on their local or state laws) and they are desperately trying to ward off challenges.”

          Cite(s) missing.
          And they don’t need growth to keep the power they have.

          1. I question their ability to maintain that power. We’ll see though.

  11. You know, it wouldn’t surprise me that Walker got re-elected by the very people he was supposed to have ‘hurt’.

    I imagine there were a whole bunch of public sector workers who saw their paychecks get noticeably larger once they weren’t forced to pay off the union. And all the ‘protections’ the union provides? Well those are mostly useless unless you’re a shitbag trying to keep from being fired.

  12. I love the fact that Walker is running circles around Proggies. They have used everything in their arsenal and they *still* can’t seem to beat him. Other than his’ repeated bitch-slapping of the unions and what was posted upthread, I do not know too much more about his agenda so I can’t say that I support/don’t support him. But it has been fun to watch.

    I have a number of Facebook friends with UW degrees and the accompanying politics… The wailing and rending of clothes has been quite tasty.

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