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Fri Jun 12, 2015, 09:01 AM

Scott Walker and the Fate of the Union (FRONT PAGE NYT Magazine)



In Wisconsin, where the labor movement took root a century ago, a campaign by the governor has broken its power. His political allies hope he can take a similar campaign nationwide.


This first day of work in three months, Randy Bryce asked his foreman for the next day off. He wanted to go to the Capitol in Madison, Wis., and testify against a proposed law. Bryce, a member of Milwaukee Ironworkers Local 8, was unloading truckloads of steel beams to build a warehouse near Kenosha, and he needed the job. He has an 8-year-old son, his debts were piling up and a 10-hour shift paid more than $300. But the legislation, which Republicans were rushing through the State Senate, angered him enough to sacrifice the hours. Supporters called it a “right to work” bill, because it prohibited unions from requiring employees to pay dues. But to Bryce, that appealing name hid the true purpose of the bill, which was to destroy unions.

The next morning, Bryce, who is 50 and has close-­cropped black hair and a horseshoe mustache, woke up at 5:30, got dressed in his usual jeans, hoodie and Local 8 varsity jacket with an I-beam and an American flag stitched on the back and drove 90 miles to Madison in his gray Mustang. Despite the February chill, crowds had begun to gather in the square outside the Capitol. The scene was reminiscent of a similar one that played out four years earlier, in 2011, when thousands of people occupied the Capitol’s rotunda for more than two weeks to protest Act 10, a law that demolished collective-­bargaining rights for nearly all public employees. The protests in Madison were the first significant resistance to the ascendant Tea Party and helped set the stage for Occupy Wall Street. For Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, it was the moment that started his conservative ascent. “The Republican Party has a demonstrated, genuine hero and potential star in its ranks, and he is the governor of Wisconsin,” Rush Limbaugh said last year. The unions, Democrats and other perceived enemies, he continued, had “thrown everything they’ve got at Scott Walker, and he has beat them back without one syllable of complaint, without one ounce of whining. All he has done is win.” Walker is expected to announce in the next few weeks that he is entering the 2016 presidential race.

It is particularly bitter for Walker’s opponents that his rise has taken place in Wisconsin, a blue state with a long history of labor activism; it was the first state in the nation to grant collective-­bargaining rights to public employees, in 1959. Walker, who declined to be interviewed for this article, has won three races for governor, one a recall effort, and each time he took more than a third of the votes from union households. He was able to do this by making “labor” seem like someone else — even to union members — and pitting one faction against another. Four years ago, in a private exchange captured by a documentary filmmaker, he revealed his successful strategy to a billionaire supporter who asked him if Wisconsin would ever become a right-to-work state. Walker responded enthusiastically, explaining that Act 10 was just the beginning of a larger effort. “The first step is, we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public-­employee unions,” he said, “because you use divide-­and-­conquer.”

At the Capitol, dozens of state troopers (who kept their bargaining rights) and Capitol police officers (who lost theirs) were now patrolling the rotunda to prevent it from being occupied again. The Senate hearing room was already packed, so Bryce watched the hearing on monitors outside while he waited for his turn to speak. First came the expert witnesses. James Sherk, an economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said that unions operate as cartels: “They try to control the supply of labor in an industry so as to drive up its price, namely wages. But like all cartels, these gains come at the cost of greater losses to the rest of society.” Greg Mourad, a spokesman for a lobbying organization called the National Right to Work Committee, which has received significant funding from the conservative billionaire Koch brothers, compared the experience of being made to pay union dues to being kidnapped and extorted. Gordon Lafer, a political scientist at the University of Oregon, noted on the other hand that while right-to-work laws in other states had generated no identifiable economic gains, they did drive down wages for union and nonunion workers alike.

FULL story at link.

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Reply Scott Walker and the Fate of the Union (FRONT PAGE NYT Magazine) (Original post)
Omaha Steve Jun 2015 OP
marym625 Jun 2015 #1

Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Fri Jun 12, 2015, 09:14 AM

1. K&R!

Walker needs to take a walk

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