NATIONAL VICE PRESIDENT’S REPORT
John Duffy, National Vice President
Key Labor-Dense States See Positive Results With Mid-Term Elections
Back in 2010, the mid-term elections dealt a severe blow to the labor movement.
Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio saw a complete takeover of their state legislatures and governorships by extreme right wing, anti-labor politicians. With complete control of the legislative process, those politicians made it a priority to attack working people in their respective states.
It was the middle of the great recession. Many state and individual Wall Street retirement investments took a big hit. The right wing strategy was to draw a false connection between the economic meltdown and working class union members: blame those who earn good pay and benefits, rather than the Wall Street fat cats who actually caused the problem.
Gov. Scott Walker attacks workers
The first attack on workers and their unions took place in Wisconsin. Newly elected Governor Scott Walker was the driving force there, repeatedly expressing his admiration for President Ronald Reagan and his firing of over 12,000 air traffic controllers during their PATCO strike in 1981. (It’s worth noting that PATCO had endorsed Reagan in his successful bid for the White House, and that it took several years, and billions of dollars, for air travel to return to pre-strike levels. All at a cost much greater than settling with the PATCO union.)
Wisconsin’s Act 10, also known as the Scott Walker Budget Repair Bill, radically restricted and, in some cases, eliminated collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin’s public sector workers. The Act prohibits public sector workers from bargaining over anything except wages, ended the practice of automatic dues deduction from workers’ paychecks, and requires yearly votes for a union to remain certified. The bill requires 51% of all members to vote for the union every year. In other words, anyone who doesn’t vote, gets counted as a “no” vote against the union. Mandatory dues payment for public sector workers was also outlawed, effectively enacting a right-to-work law for the public sector. For University of Wisconsin Hospitals’ and Clinics’ employees, and University of Wisconsin faculty and academic staff, collective bargaining rights were completely eliminated. In order to divide and conquer workers, police and fire unions were strategically carved out of all these anti-union measures.
Continuing the attack on Wisconsin workers, in 2015, Walker signed into law a right-to-work bill for the private sector.
Soon after passage of Walkers Act 10, the well-planned right wing assault on organized labor spread to other states such as Michigan and Ohio. In Michigan, right-to-work laws for both the private and public sector were enacted. Other bills passed making it harder for workers and unions to picket, and easier for employers to hire workers to replace striking employees. These bills increased fines against picketers to $1,000 per person per day and $10,000 per day for an organization or union involved in a picket deemed to be an illegal mass picket. Another bill repealed a law that required employers to include information about an ongoing strike when they advertise to hire employees who will replace existing employees who are on strike.
In Ohio, anti-union legislation (SB-5) was passed but was successfully beat back in a ballot initiative. And in Pennsylvania, Democratic Governor Tom Wolf was elected in 2014. He has consistently vetoed anti-worker legislation and was re-elected this year. Gov. Wolf is a good friend of utility workers and has spoken at our Regional Conferences.
Walker sent packing
Although I’ve reported on these historic anti-union attacks in the past, they bear repeating on the heels of the 2018 mid-term elections. Wisconsin and Michigan voters elected pro-worker candidates to state houses and governorships. They are no longer under the complete control of those whose agenda it is to break unions and hurt the working class as a whole. Ohio will be in play in 2020.
To see Scott Walker, who led the charge to destroy the American labor movement, being sent packing by the voters of Wisconsin was simply the icing on the cake.