Scott Walker

Giving Power to the People, Not Unions

Parsing Scott Walker's labor policy plans


Gage Skidmore

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker just proposed a plan to overhaul the country's labor laws, called "My Plan to Give Power to the People, Not the Union Bosses." It would do that by expanding employee choice and holding unions accountable to their members.

One of the main underlying themes of the Republican presidential hopeful's private-sector reforms is transferring power and decision-making from unions to their members. For instance, the plan would guarantee employees' rights by strengthening secret-ballot elections. Under current law, unions have ways to work around the protections, making such elections less than secret. The change would protect workers from retaliation by not disclosing their choices to unions during workplace elections.

Though federal laws outlaw extortion, the Supreme Court has ruled that they usually do not apply to unions. Walker's plan would change that to protect workers from threats, violence and extortion from unions. Similarly, his reforms would protect whistleblowers who report wrongdoing on the part of a union from being fired or discriminated against.

In theory, public-sector employees are accountable to the public, but their unions manage the government on our behalf. It is for this very reason that public-sector unions present a real problem in representing both sides of the negotiating table—for their own benefit. In this sense, they harbor a special conflict of interest that sets them apart from private companies, private unions, and trade organizations. They also make the government less effective and more expensive.

That's why a President Walker would work with Congress to prohibit public employee unions altogether. Meanwhile, he would implement taxpayer and paycheck protections. As Heritage Foundation labor economist James Sherk explained for National Review, "Walker proposes cracking down on the use of 'union time'—that is, allowing federal employees to work for their unions at taxpayer expense. He also wants to stop unions from using federal resources to collect the portion of dues they spend on political causes and lobbying."

Walker's plan also would establish a nationwide right-to-work law, making voluntary union dues the default option for all private- and public-sector workers. It would give workers the freedom to choose whether they want to be in a union or not. States that want to take this freedom away from their workers would have to affirmatively vote to opt out of right-to-work status.

Sherk noted that Walker learned from his labor battle in Wisconsin. He wrote, "Walker now proposes having union contracts apply only to union members. Non-members who do not pay dues would negotiate separately."

And of course, Walker says that as president, he would stand in solidarity with any governor, Republican or Democrat, who "fights the big-government special interests in their state and takes on collective bargaining reform" as he did in Wisconsin.

Giving more choice to employees and union members while holding union bosses accountable is not only good economics and good policy but also good politics. Indeed, poll data show that it is a very popular theme, even among union members, who tend to be "significantly less satisfied than nonmembers about their job security, flexibility of hours, and recognition for their achievements," said Sherk.

The Walker plan includes many more reforms, such as a repeal of the Davis-Bacon wage controls, which alone could save taxpayers nearly $13 billion over the next 10 years. If implemented, it would be a giant step toward freeing businesses, employers, workers, and taxpayers from the incredible burden imposed on them by federal labor laws and union bosses.



NEXT: Carly Fiorina Won Tonight's GOP Debate With This One Moment

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  1. Sounds like Scott Walker wants Johnny Lunchpale to have to chose between losing his new bass boat or feeding his family cat food. Why doesn’t Walker just ship jobs overseas because we’ve collectively bargained our way out of the labor market while he’s at it?

    1. Who cares about our overpaid federal government employees in the IRS, federal prosecutors office, federal law enforcement, politicians, fed judges, and all other regulatory agencies. They are all way over paid. And that’s all they do is micromanage and second guess others for a living. They make six figures, plus free healthcare for life. They still get paid six figure pensions every year that they are retired.

      1. I know a lot of government employees, many are probably overpaid, after many years of being underpaid, but no one who gets a six figure pension. Some of the management are close to that, but most are not even.

  2. Good idea in theory. It is appalling to go to a place that has a union and be told that you must sign up with a specific union with a specific cost on each paycheck.

    Allowing multiple unions per company will allow union members to chose a union (or no union at all) if it serves them better than the current model of a single union embedded within a workplace.

  3. “a nationwide right-to-work law, making voluntary union dues the default option for all private- and public-sector workers. It would give workers the freedom to choose whether they want to be in a union or not.”

    Union dues and union membership are already voluntary for all workers. Here’s how it works:

    If you don’t want to join a union and pay union dues, don’t apply for a job at a place where the employer and a union have negotiated an exclusive (“closed shop”) contract.

    What “right to work” does is prohibit employers and unions from negotiating such exclusive contracts, while, if employer and union have negotiated ANY kind of contract, requiring employers to give non-union workers union contract pay and benefits and requiring unions to represent non-members as if they were members.

    “Right to work” is an anti-freedom, anti-contract, government-enforced license to freeload.

    1. You have an odd definition of anti-freedom. Since unions are all about the workers (supposedly), why would it matter if employees don’t pay dues and receive those same benefits and pay?

      If you want to work at place X, having to join a union is less freedom than being able to choose. For private companies, you may have a somewhat valid point. For public sector, you should not be forced to work for a union if you want to work there

      1. My guess is that the ones negotiating on behalf of the union workers wish to be paid their due for doing so. So it’s more capitalist than anything- you’re working and want to get paid for it.

        1. I get that. My issue is they signal it is all about the worker and looking out for them so logically i think they would like non union employees getting the same would be a win for them. I suspect they aren’t being exactly honest and like you said they want to get paid. Just come out and say it. A better example of what i mean is when teacher’s unions go on strike saying it is to help the children. That is BS. I would respect it more if they just said what their goal is

          If RTW presents a conflict between the a private company and a union’s agreement that they both settled on certain terms and provisions, then i dont really support the RTW. As if joining the union as a condition of employment is part of the agreement reached, then that should be honored

          However for public sector unions, i think they are a conflict of interest in the first place and should be done away with. Seeing how the government is supposed to be by the people and for the people…if you want to work for government you should not be forced to join a union to do so.

    2. “Right to work” is an anti-freedom, anti-contract, government-enforced license to freeload.

      The libs should love it then, if they can comprehend the natural consequences of such a ‘public policy’.

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  5. You know who else wanted everybody to join the organization and pay dues?

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  7. While Walker’s quest to protect workers from threats, violence and extortion from unions seems on the surface a good and logical pusuit, it’s a really a solution in search of a problem. Complaints against unions by members are miniscule compared to total membership, with a fair number originating from nothing more than workplace personality conflicts. Similarly, Walker’s proposals to protect whistleblowers from being fired or discriminated against is, again, a solution in search of a problem: The NLRB already has strict rules and guidelines in place protecting members who choose to file complaints of any kind. And they don’t fuck around with impropriety.

    I’d like to see the poll showing union members are “significantly less satisfied than nonmembers about their job security, flexibility of hours, and recognition for their achievements.” Were the “more satisfieds” working the same jobs? In similar conditions?What’s the data for this rather unbelievable conclusion? After all, shouldn’t these union thugs be happier than non-members, draining state and city coffers and sleeping on the job like they do? If Walker had any real balls he’d state his true mission: to ride the growing anti-union sentiment sweeping the nation, (perpetrated by the Koch Brothers and their ilk) and garner hefty political donations from anti-union business concerns. And, no, that mission does not include shielding helpless blue-collar victims, terrorized by their own evil unions.

  8. While I think that some of these union reforms are a good idea, Gov. Walkers state has been going downhill economically since he took over, compared to most others. There always needs to be a balance between union and corporate corruption, but he seems to have swung the balance a bit too far.

  9. Every employee should be on an individual contract, paid according to his or her performance, skills and experience.

    1. Fine theory, just doesn’t work. Employers will seek out employees they can overwork and underpay simply by saying “take it or leave it, there’s a thousand others who’ll be glad to have a paycheck.”
      And they’ll be right, there will be others to fill the void -underpaid, overworked, sick and miserable.
      Don’t believe it? Look to the dawn of the industrial revolution, before unions stepped in to bargain collectively.

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