Unionism in Wisconsin and the GOP Race

When Governor Scott Walker signed into law a bill stripping public sector employees of their collective bargaining rights, he put himself in the political crosshairs of the union movement in Wisconsin. To date, recall efforts have reached a fever pitch, with Walker’s opponents collecting over 1,000,000 petition signatures to put him on a recall ballot this spring. According to CNN, if the recall is successful it would only be the third time in national history for a successful gubernatorial recall.

Why are pro-union organizations so upset with Governor Walker? Walker made the decision to sign into law the virtual nullification of public sector employees’ collective bargaining rights. This means that any public sector employee union such as teachers unions, municipality unions, and sanitation workers unions will be without the ability to stand before their employer as one and demand to be heard.

Lacking a voice will have a huge effect on the public sector employees, especially since the economic downturn is still affecting Wisconsin’s budget. Public sector employees will no longer be able to collectively bargain for pay raises, better healthcare, and other benefits. In an uncertain economy, these employees now have less power against a state that is deciding various ways to cut the fat from its budget.

Unions have historically developed labor and employment laws in favor of the employees which had in turn led to many protections for employees. During the development of the union movement, employees were able to achieve shorter work days and better pay using tools like collective bargaining. As the union movement in American has continued to grow, companies and other employers have had to adhere to labor regulations including giving employees information about their rights, and allowing employees to send a representative which the employer must bargain with.

Many critics have complained that giving unions so much power could ultimately ruin a business, especially a small business. This position has taken root in the Republican 2012 presidential race. One proponent of this view is Mitt Romney, the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination. Romney has claimed that unions have their place in our history, but as America is struggling to get to its feet economically, unions should put aside some of their power to allow America to get back to work. What seems like a noble ideal, however, has several negative implications for workers.  If union power was taken away from the works, who would represent their interests in the workplace? This has been a problem for American workers before when unions were not strong enough to claim fair pay and benefits, and their employers took advantage of that weakness. As the adage goes, there is power in numbers. And by denying public sector employees their collective bargaining rights, Governor Walker has significantly decreased Wisconsin public employees their power.

As Wisconsin citizens fight against this anti-labor law, the impacts for the GOP race could be very influential. If Romney is selected as the Republican nominee, his anti-union plans may push Wisconsin voters to President Obama. Wisconsin has 10 electoral votes, which could become pivotal in a close race. Whether Walker will be recalled may be decided this spring, but the anti-union rhetoric from Walker and other Republican politicians certainly has resonated in that state and Wisconsin citizens have shown they will stand up as pro-labor.

Review CNN’s article about the possible recall here: