06.07.2012 2

Big Labor’s Little Big Horn

NRD Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at TheHill.com.

Scott WalkerBy Rick Manning — Democrats are spinning the Wisconsin results, saying, “The exit polls show O is leading in the state, so it doesn’t matter.” Of course, those same exit polls showed that the Big Labor Walker recall was too close to call, when it was a veritable blowout. So much for hanging your hat on exit polls.

The shocking realization for Big Labor out of the Wisconsin campaign is that its president was unwilling to expend any of his political capital at the moment of greatest need on its behalf. One has to wonder if this will hurt Obama’s ability to mobilize the shock troops of the Democratic Party in November. If it does, the failed Wisconsin recall will be devastating to Obama’s reelection bid nationally whether he wins the state in November or not.

Psychologically and economically, the loss in Wisconsin devastates Big Labor, which increasingly relies on public employee dollars to shore up its dwindling private-sector-generated monies. That’s why they had to go all in. Now governors and mayors of all political stripes will be willing to take on the real underlying structural problems their states face, by dealing with the inequitable public employee union deals that are hamstringing their budgets, and Big Labor cannot afford to fight these battles on multiple fronts.

Missed in the political debate in Wisconsin are a couple of requirements that were at the heart of Big Labor’s Little Big Horn-like fight. Wisconsin public employee unions are now required to get the consent of their members to exist on an annual basis, and they no longer have the government collecting their dues for them. The effect of these two changes has been to have most public employee unions in the state decertify because they can’t get a majority of their members to rejoin voluntarily, and those same public employees are significantly less likely to write a monthly check for their dues rather than having it automatically deducted.

These two changes transform public employee unions to voluntary organizations rather than ones that throw their weight around using compulsory membership and dues. Needless to say, without forced-dues money coming into their coffers, a group like AFSCME will not have the $87.5 million it reported spending to elect Democrats in 2010. Incredibly, the head of the union bragged that it was the “big dog” in the elections of 2010, apparently not recognizing the electoral slaughter that occurred all around him.

Beyond the unsavory fact of public employee unions being the major contributor to the campaigns of those whom they negotiate contracts with, the decision to dramatically raise their profile has made public employee unions fair political game.

It is disconcerting that those who were viewed as “public servants” now have higher average salaries, better pensions and better healthcare plans than those who pay the taxes to support them. At some point the public employee unions and the politicians who support them have made the taxpayers the servants of the government, working to pay for healthcare plans for the public employee that they cannot afford for their own families.

That is the real story of Wisconsin, the rebellion of those who pay the freight against the public employee unions who have turned taxpayers into servants.

Rick Manning is the Director of Communications for Americans for Limited Government and the former Public Affairs Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Labor.

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