After months of high-profile protest, procedural maneuvering and legal wrangling, the anti-union measure in Wisconsin goes into effect today. A controversial 4-3 ruling from the state Supreme Court two weeks ago vacated an injunction against the law, on the grounds that the legislature couldn’t violate state open meetings requirements because… they’re the legislature. Despite the circuitous nature of that logic, the ruling from the highest court in the state stands, and Secretary of State Doug LaFollette formally published the act 10 days ago. Per state law, it takes effect today.
The anti-union law does more than just restrict collective bargaining rights on everything but wages (which can only rise with the rate of inflation) for most public employees other than police and fire fighters, though that’s the most offensive measure. In addition, it forces larger contributions from state employees to pensions and health care. It requires annual re-certification of all public employee unions, which must get a majority of all eligible employees rather than a majority of those participating in the elections. It ends automatic dues collection through employees’ paychecks, forcing unions to find another way to collect dues. It’s basically a cornucopia of measures to stop unions from existing in the state of Wisconsin.
The measure drew mass protests and a walkout of Senate Democrats, and have led to recall elections, which may succeed in flipping the state Senate. But the damage has been done and it’s extensive over the long-term. In other states where similar measures have been tried, like Indiana, it virtually broke the public employee unions entirely. This is one of the few remaining seats of anti-corporate worker power left in the country, and whittling them down to nothing would be a major victory for conservatives.
And you can see this in the fact that the action in Wisconsin was mirrored across the country. It has been successful in states like Tennessee and Idaho. In Ohio, their anti-union bill passed, but now faces the prospect of a citizen veto. In plenty of other states, anti-union measures have either passed this year or in the past, resulting in lower union membership.
So while Scott Walker took a lot of heat for the decision to bust the unions, while he may lose the state Senate in the process, while he may even get recalled himself, and even while he publicly regrets his approach, over the long-term, if this act cannot be repealed, conservatives will have succeeded in decimating the labor movement in a state with a long union history. That will help them win elections and attain everything they care about.
Joan Fitz-Gerald of America Votes Action Fund made this statement:
Wisconsin workers lost their rights today. It’s unacceptable, and we cannot let it stand.
Gov. Walker’s controversial collective bargaining bill aimed at busting the unions and stripping rights from the middle class officially becomes law today. We must stand united today as a national progressive community to send a message to Republicans in Wisconsin and across the country: attacks on working families have consequences.
That’s in the context of a fundraising message for the recalls, and if Walker’s action sparks an actual worker-based movement in this country, maybe there’s something to salvage. But in the meantime, labor will have less of a chance to fight back against attacks on their very existence.