11.05.2014 1

Big Labor’s Death Rattle

Cartoon - Stomping Ground - ALG (500)

By Rick Manning

The early election results show Republicans with an increasing probability that they will roll up between 54 and 56 Senate seats when the dust settles as the late breaking voters overwhelmingly chose to reject the policies of President Obama.

Louisiana’s Senate seat will be decided in a December run-off, and 60 percent of those who voted yesterday rejected the incumbent Democrat creating a virtually insurmountable obstacle for her to maintain her seat in the run-off.

As important as the Senate changeover is, the victories of three Midwest Governors in states that voted for Obama in both 2008 and 2012 is a storyline that cannot be lost.

Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Michigan’s Rick Snyder and Ohio’s John Kasich each took on Big Labor in their respective states and lived politically to tell about it.

All three states have a long history of being labor union strongholds, yet today that political power is on life support.  Low turnout elections should be labor’s ball game, where they are able to use their membership resources which are already organized for mobilization, to turn the tide.

In Michigan, Snyder took on the United Auto Workers union passing a right to work law in what was once perceived as the most union state of them all.  This bold effort that strikes at the heart of the UAW’s ability to coerce dues payments from its members was met with fierce opposition at the time of passage, but the union efforts turned into nothing more than sound and fury signifying nothing as the Governor coasted to re-election.

In Ohio, Governor Kasich reluctantly led an effort that would have prohibited public employees from striking and limited their ability to engage in collective bargaining.  Public employee unions spent more than $30 million in a state refendum and successfully repealed the measure, but they failed miserably in attempts to make Kasich pay a political price.  Last night, was their final test on whether public employee unions could make a politician pay in Ohio, and they failed miserably.

Finally and most importantly, Scott Walker remains the Governor of Wisconsin winning his largest victory to date.

Walker famously led his deep purple state to a balanced budget by changing the ability of public employee unions to collectively bargain and compel their members to pay dues. His efforts have led to a three year union meltdown/temper tantrum which has seen attempts to recall him from office as well as some supportive members of the state legislature, fights over control of the state Supreme Court, prosecutorial misconduct related to targeting tea party groups political involvement, and virtually every other political trick in the book.

Today Governor Walker is stronger than ever, re-elected by his widest margin yet. A bold, tough innovator Walker brought his state back from the brink of the economic abyss by doing the seemingly impossible and surviving politically.  His public employee union enemies not just beaten, but left as a shadow of their selves as voters chose prosperity over enriching government workers.

The failure of the once powerful labor movement to make a dent in the political fortunes of three rust belt state Governors that have been in the Obama electoral column each of the last two cycles should forever end the myth that Big Labor matters politically.

While they do have the capacity to throw their member dues at a politician, what they don’t have is the ability to beat those who go into the belly of the beast and slay it.

As Republican Governors across the nation seek ways to establish economic growth, prosperity and fiscal sanity in their states, they will be looking to Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan as an example.  Big labor’s abject political failure in these three unlikely states is emboldening to those representing areas where unions are less entrenched.

Analysts and pundits are trying to figure out what the Republican sweep means nationally.

In the long run, big labor’s death rattle in Wisconsin and Michigan in particular is likely to have the most profound political impact over the next four years.

Rick Manning (@rmanning957) is vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government

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