Scott Walker

Why Scott Walker's Victory Doesn't Spell the Doom of Big Labor Yet


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) pulled off a stunner of a solid victory on Tuesday. And it's easy to see why this is

Library of Congress

being billed as a major blow to Big Labor.

Unions had put a bull's eye on Walker ever since he signed the union-deflating Public Act 10 into law in 2011, using every tactic in their book to intimidate and harass him. Walker's law went well beyond eliminating compulsory payment of union dues as a condition of employment in union shops, as right-to-work laws (including one signed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder) do. And Big Labor wanted to send a message to other governors to not try Walker-style reforms at home.

That it didn't succeed shows that Big Labor's bark is worse than its bite. But the fact of the matter is that with the economy improving and state revenues beginning to flow again, even Republican governors who hate the guts of labor unions will have a hard time going after them. Even Walker himself has pledged to not push right-to-work in the Dairy State, I note in my column at The Week.

So Big Labor is safe till the next downturn. After that, it's another matter

Go here to view the whole article.

NEXT: Law Says One Thing, Child Services Says Another: Don't Let Your Kid Outside

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. As long as they can force dues collections they’ll be using that dough to shove Democrats down everyone’s throat, no matter how bad for the economy.

  2. Unions aren’t the problem. Unions that are given special treatment by the government are the problem.

    1. Public sector unions are the problem. If a private sector union raises costs on its employer to the point where prices for goods and services become too much for customers to willingly pay, and the company goes out of business, oh fucking well. The company doesn’t have the power to force its customers to pay. Government does, and that’s why all public sector unions should be abolished.

      1. In the article, I don’t think Dalmia is talking about what should happen. I think she’s talking about what will happen.

        The market for ideas is like the market for anything else. You have to take whatever price the market will given you.

        “However, with the recession over, revenues are once again flowing in and state balance sheets are improving. Only 14 states now face a deficit. And it’s a rather small combined total of $8.6 billion, according to a National Association of Budget Offices survey. “This is a drop in the bucket compared to what states faced four years ago,” notes Reason Foundation Director of Government Reform Leonard Gilroy. Radically stripping unions of their collective bargaining powers in the absence of a fiscal emergency risks coming across as a nakedly political move that might not sit well with state voters.…..ig-victory

        This is a market analysis. It isn’t about the way things should be. It’s about the way they are.

        The market for defanging the unions now that the economy is improving and revenues are making their way to the states again isn’t what it used to be.

        It was different market for ideas when there wasn’t enough revenue to go around–and raising taxes in the face of a recession was insane.

        1. The market for defanging the unions now that the economy is improving and revenues are making their way to the states again isn’t what it used to be.

          So pubsec unions will bankrupt every state in 10 years instead of 8? That’s comforting.

          1. I’m not saying that public sector unions shouldn’t be defanged, and it doesn’t seem to me that Shikha Dalmia is saying that they shouldn’t be defanged either.

            I’m saying that the impetus for taking on the unions that was present in the past is no longer there like it used to be.

            The only time politicians slash spending is when they have to–right now, most of them don’t have to! This is different from the way it was when when the state’s coffers were empty.

            When a governor makes a decision about whether to tackle the public sector unions, it’s a political calculation. He looks at the voters and tries to figure what he can sell that they’ll buy.

            They aren’t going to buy that he has no choice but to do this a) when the coffers are flush with cash b) when the economy is growing and he could raise taxes, c)…

            If anything, Dalmia’s piece suggests that we libertarians should push harder for defanging the unions than we ever did before–since the impetus for the governors to take on the public sector unions isn’t what it used to be.

            The politicians were cutting spending because they were out of money. Politicians, like Walker, were taking on the public sector unions because the state governments were out of money. If they’re no longer out of money, like they used to be, why would we expect them to do the same things they were doing before?

            1. I get your point but this whole “flush with cash” versus “out of money” distinction is just political smoke and mirrors. We are neither of these things.

              1. During the recession, they really were out of money, and they were out of ways to get more of it. Investors were even giving them a hard time on municipal bonds–the interest rate was high.

                Especially relative to where investors were at the time. All those entities that had lost their shirts on mortgage debt were buying things like state and local bonds, as well. Those buyers dried up. They were also smarting from the drubbing they were taking on European debt, all of which was cratering along with Greece, Spain, Italy, et. al.

                Meanwhile, it’s hard to raise property taxes, sales taxes, etc. on people in the middle of a recession.

                It’s true that government spends every penny it gets, and in that way, the difference between being flush with cash and out of money is meaningless–they always spend every cent regardless.

                But in the recession, they couldn’t get their hands on anywhere near as much to spend. The spending commitments they made (to public sector unions, among others) were made with growth assumptions that didn’t pan out, and, like I said, didn’t account for the investment community and the financial sector to collapse the way it did.

                There were no good sources of revenue, and they had more bills than revenue. It really was a different situation.

            2. It’s tough to get reform when times are good. Voters only buy into reform when times are bad but reform always comes with a short term cost that is more easily paid during good times. Politicians are reluctant to pay the cost during tough times.

              When times are good, politicians get rewarded for pissing away money. Laissez les bon temps rouller.

      2. Totally. When you get a job with the government you give up your right of assembly, I say. Plutocrats buying elections to buy off politicians is Glenn beck, freedom to strike because your boss sucks and the pay stinks is Josef Stalin.

        1. When you get a job with the government you give up your right of assembly, I say.

          Works for me.

          1. Actually, as a government employee, you can join any union you like. The government in question would be prohibited from engaging with a union, however.

        2. “All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.” – Franklin D Roosevelt

          But from a Socialists point of view FDR is probably considered some rightwing nut job.

          1. Actually, from a Marxist point of view, a public teachers’ union is a classic conspiracy of the petty bourgeois to steal from the proletariat the fruits of its labor. A real socialist would be happy to see such unions demolished.

            The economic system where leagues of “stakeholders” form bodies and have their interests mediated by the state is corporatism.

  3. Why am I not shocked that Shikha is a union apologist?

    1. Too early in the morning to trust my sarcasm detector.

      You’re joking, right?

    2. From Shikha’s bio at The Week:

      “She considers herself to be a progressive libertarian and an agnostic with Buddhist longings and a Sufi soul.”

      1. progressive libertarian

        IOW, a progressive.

      2. I don’t get it.

        Are you saying you don’t like her because she’s Indian?

        1. Feather or dot?

          BTW, what is a progressive Libertarian? How can such a thing exist without annihilating itself. Progressive is illiberal without much of any overlap with classical liberalism while Libertarian is almost completely classical liberalism.

          1. I’ve used the term “progressive libertarian” before, meaning libertarians who look at the future as the place where libertarianism can really come into its own rather than pining for the 19th century as a lot of libertarians seem to do. I have no idea if that is what Dalmia means. But progress is a word that has meaning outside of the American Progressive movement.

          2. Lots of us got labeled as “progressive” in that political orientation test so many of us took yesterday. Check it out, here:


            Take the test yourself! They may label you as a “progressive”, too.

            They seem to use that label as interchangeable with certain aspects of being a classic liberal.

            If you believe in the rights of gay people–despite not being gay yourself–then I think a lot of people would label you a “progressive”.

            The label is apparently becoming more complicated–like “liberal” used to mean you believed in Constitutional rights.

            Here’s how I tested:

            Conservative Anarchist Isolationist Cosmopolitan Progressive

            Collectivism score: -67%
            Authoritarianism score: -100%
            Internationalism score: -50%
            Tribalism score: -33%
            Liberalism score: 67%

            Because I’m negative 67% on collectivism, they call me a “conservative”. Because I’m negative 100% on authoritarianism, they call me an anarchist. I wouldn’t describe myself as either “conservative” or “anarchist”.

            Because I scored high on “Liberalism” (or civil rights), they called me a “progressive”.

            Try the test yourself. They may call you a progressive, too.

          3. “Feather or dot?”

            I didn’t understand what you were asking there, at first, or I would have responded sooner.

            And if I’d understood what you were saying earlier, I would have just said, “Fuck you!”

            Since that opportunity has passed, you might note a few things:

            1) It doesn’t matter, what she’s saying is true regardless.

            2) What’s she’s saying isn’t pro-union.

            3) What’s she’s written here in the past has been consistently anti-union for years.

            4) Fuck you!

            Some people seem to think that because we make fun of those who call us racists without cause, that this somehow means we’re tolerant of racism.

            They’re wrong about that.

            You’re a stupid racist for thinking it matters what kind of Indian she is, and you’re wrong if you think she’s written something pro-union, here, or that she isn’t anti-union and hasn’t been for years.

            I hope you don’t go around telling people you’re a libertarian–because if that’s the kind of stupid shit you go around the internet posting under the heading of “libertarian”, then you make us all look stupid by association.

            If the progressives had stayed up all night trying to think of new and better ways to make libertarians looks stupid, they could hardly have come up with anything better than to pretend they were libertarians and go around on the internet posting “Feather or dot?”.

            P.S. Fuck you.

    3. “Why am I not shocked that Shikha is a union apologist?”

      I don’t read it that way. I think she’s just telling us that the Public Sector unions are wounded, but not even close to dead. And I’d consider that an accurate appraisal.

      1. “I don’t read it that way.”

        You’re being too kind. No one with more than a few brain cells to rub together would read it the way they did.

        I’m starting to think these guys are just morons.

        1. There does seem to be a certain set of regular commenters who are constantly on the lookout for Reason staff who are secret liberals or something. It does get a bit tiresome.

      2. “Why am I not shocked that Shikha is a union apologist?”

        Just for the record, she’s been writing anti-union pieces here at Reason for years.

        I think the filter will only allow me a couple of links per post–go find more yourselves if you want.…..gans-malai…..-wisconsin

        I hope she doesn’t change her writing style one iota just because some people lose at internets big time for reading comprehension problems.

        I suspect some, up above, have much bigger problems than reading comprehension anyway. These are some of the dumbset comments I’ve seen people write around here–not named Tony–in a long, long time.

  4. “But the fact of the matter is that with the economy improving and state revenues beginning to flow again, even Republican governors who hate the guts of labor unions will have a hard time going after them.”

    It’s like the argument I make about when the best time is to slash taxes; deficits be damned–the government is never going to be so flush with revenue that it decides to slash spending.

    It’s the same with going after the government employee unions. You need an excuse with the voters, and being flush with revenue as the economy improves just doesn’t provide us with that excuse.

  5. “with the economy improving ”

    Hahaha! Tell that to the 80% who cited the Econ as problem #1.

  6. This is IMO, a good article with a premise that strikes me as correct. However, I think Ms. Dalmia makes at least one mistake in the reasoning of her article.

    ” In the first year after the law went into effect, membership in Wisconsin’s public unions fell from 50 percent to 37 percent.”

    Yes, and their due collections dropped in the same fashion. So, the Union basically lost a quarter of their income in the first year.

    “This is why Big Labor pulled out all the stops against Walker, including forcing him in 2012 to suffer the indignity of being the first Wisconsin governor to face a recall election. ”

    Exactly, but remember this was very expensive for the Unions.

    “Still, for now, these are largely moral victories for Republicans.”

    However, this conclusion is wrong and directly contradicts the proceeding facts. Winning 3 elections, that were extremely costly for the other side, after cutting their income down by 25% is not largely a moral victory. It’s a decisive strike against the other side’s logistics.

    Can national labor groups and Democrats funnel in enough money to cover the difference? Sure. But it’s not “free” money. It weakens them somewhere else. And this is not a trivial amount of money.

    1. This article details a drop of $9 million in dues from the 3 largest unions in the first year (as of November 2013). It’s reasonable to assume the unions also lost at least another $9 million in the past year.…..963f4.html

      That’s at least am $18 million drop before this election that they just lost. And the loss is probably accelerating. It’s going to be increasingly hard to keep dues paying members of the Union active after a third loss, especially when they stakes so much on winning.

  7. Yes, but we’ve only just begun to see the effects of the new policies in Wisconsin and Michigan.

    Right-to-work in Michigan is going to have evolving downstream effects for 10+ years, as the Unions bleed off membership. Non-union manufacturing may return to the state. Existing manufacturing will gradually replace union members with non-union members.

    And that will have all sorts of effects on the manufacturing base and Michigan’s economy.

    In Wisconsin, similarly, over a few years we’re going to see the power of the public sector unions decline as they lose membership, which is going to lead to unfolding changes in the political landscape. Those aregoing to take a few years to play out.

    Hence by the time of the next downturn, they will be significantly weaker players.

  8. Unions, on the whole, 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 across continental market economies (Belgium is an exception) 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 and more decentralized government system?). In the past, this may have hurt us in some respects, 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.

    Source for data:

    1. This is exactly why I’m perplexed at the rapid anti-unionism of many libertarians.

      1. I’m not particularly anti-union in general, but public sector unions are an abomination. I blame legislatures that allow them to exist a lot more than the unions themselves.

  9. my buddy’s half-sister makes $74 /hr on the laptop . She has been without work for 8 months but last month her payment was $15124 just working on the laptop for a few hours. have a peek here….


    1. Sounds like she has one of them there union jobs.

  10. I have an employee who has recently began talking up the unions. I don’t know if he’s for real or if he’s just trying to troll me.

    I’m leaning toward troll; he’s from Argentina, where he owned a restaurant with unioned employees. They told him he needed to give them a raise, he showed them the books and said there’s not money for it. They set his new car on fire. He said that the local paper had a picture of him on the front page, watching his car burn. Still, I wonder if, now that the shoe is on the other foot, he is “seeing the light”, so to speak.

    I warned him that he would have to report to two bosses, then. One boss (me) who pays his wages and has an interest that the business continue–which means he keeps getting paid. The other boss will occasionally tell him to set fire to my car, perhaps get him raises that are then gobbled up by increased union dues, and the rare instance of paying him twenty dollars a day in lieu of wages to march around in front of the office and feel like an idiot.

    He tried to argue that a rival company’s employees make a certain wage level. I asked how many years the rival employee had been with the company, and he said twenty years. SO, basically, the rival company’s employee’s wages, after union dues are taken out, makes the same as an employee at our company who has the same number of years of service.

    1. Sounds to me like he’s thinking he got screwed, so why shouldn’t you get screwed, too?

      It’s so unfair!

      And he was treated unfairly.

      That happens to some people. Some people are beaten mercilessly by their step-fathers as children, and when they grow up, they beat up their children, too.

      Hope he gets past it, eventually. If I’d been treated like him, I’d be bitter for a while, too.

      If he’s any good, you might try seeing what it would take to be partners with him in a new restaurant.

      1. He’s my favorite employee, actually.

        1. I think on the whole that he would not be supportive of unions, because of his past experience. I think he’s jaded because the company we work for has mismanaged its handling of personnel and pay, and are having a struggle getting back to what the company once was. A lot of people are jaded, and we’ve lost a lot of good employees. The Free Market, huh?

          This particular employee hasn’t quit, though, even though he has been offered other opportunities. He’s really good at what he does.

  11. Unions are a debilitating factor in manufacturing, as evidenced by Nissan and Toyota opening manufacturing facilities in the “Right to Work South” rather than in places that have a ready supply of existing capital and of labor that is already skilled in the process of designing and building cars.

    1. I can comment directly on that. I’ve done work in multiple GM plants, Spring Hill (Saturn) and Bowling Green (Corvette) mostly and many hundreds of hours at Smryna (Nissan).

      The UAW is really bad. So bad, that it’s truly impressive that GM, Chrysler and Ford are actually profitable.

      On the other hand, the IBEW (electrical workers) are easy to work with and productive. Sure they want overtime if the jobs going to take more than 8 hours, but they aren’t slow walking to get it. And you just don’t see them sabotaging the process. You do see UAW workers intentionally making mistakes, so that they then get paid overtime to fix it.

      1. Do members of the IBEW have to go through an apprenticeship?

        1. “Do members of the IBEW have to go through an apprenticeship?”

          Yes, I think so.

      2. Sure they want overtime if the jobs going to take more than 8 hours

        Is there an option to not pay them overtime, then?

        1. *adjusts monocle and twirls mustachios thoughtfully*

        2. “Is there an option to not pay them overtime, then?”

          I don’t know what the contract rates are for the Electricians. But I’m guessing it’s 1.5X over 8 hours per day and over 40 hours per week.

  12. Yay, more dumbasses vote to stick it to public employees unions. Hey, the governor is an ideologically committed right-wing corporatist, who hasn’t met one campaign promise that he made in. 2010, but we sure stuck it to those libruls. We ‘re poor and self-entitled, but at least we’ll feel good about ourselves while we work in our shitty $7/hr jobs. I hope that self-righteousness helps keep you warm.

    1. $7 an hour used to be pretty good pay. I wonder why it’s not, now?

    2. According to the Census Bureau, The median income per household in Wisconsin was $55,258 per year in 2013.

      …not $7.00 an hour.

      1. median is not average

        Wisconsin per capita income is $26,624 (2010) which is about $13/hr.

        1. Per capita includes non-workers, children, retirees, etc. So it’s a horrible metric to judge wages. Furthermore, his quote was income per household.

          1. Jinx!

        2. Do you have a link for that?

          Per capita income–is that including the elderly and children that are too young to work?

          You weren’t planning on paying children a minimum wage for going to preschool, were you?

        3. Median hourly rate for less than one year of experience in WI is $13.45 per hour.

          Median hourly rate for 10-19 years worth of experience is $18.


    3. “Hey, the governor is an ideologically committed right-wing corporatist, who hasn’t met one campaign promise that he made in.”

      PolitiFact says you are wrong:…..k-o-meter/

    4. Be honest, your butt hurts badly right now, doesn’t it? Your butt probably hurts so badly that you’ve had to sleep on your stomach for the last three nights.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.