Less than two years ago, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R)
announced plans to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights
as a means of shoring up the state budget, touching off a wave of efforts
across the country aimed at curbing union power. Unions have lost most of those
battles and even failed earlier this year to recall Walker from office,
although they did manage to recall a Republican member of Wisconsin's Senate on
the same day and temporarily claim majority control of that chamber. But last
month's elections marked a somewhat more definitive turnaround for labor.
Union support helped Democrats take control of the state legislatures in Maine
and Minnesota. In Michigan, unions succeeded in repealing a law allowing
financially troubled cities to suspend collective bargaining contracts. And in
California, they defeated a ballot measure (Proposition 32) that would have barred
them from using union dues collected through payroll deductions for political
purposes. They also achieved their top Election Day goal: re-electing President
"The unions must be fairly happy with themselves," said Gary Chaison,
a professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester,
Massachusetts. "These are positive signs, particularly saving their
political life in California."
The Election Day news wasn't all positive for unions, however. In Michigan,
they lost a first-ever ballot effort to make collective bargaining a
constitutional right (Proposal 12-2), which some members of that state's
Republican controlled Legislature say could actually lead to passage of
right-to-work legislation unions were hoping to avoid with the measure.
Labor also paid a hefty price for its election victories. Unions and other
Democratic interests reportedly poured over $75 million into the campaign to
defeat California's Prop. 32. And union losses didn't come cheap either. One
union-supported group spent upwards of $6 billion on TV ads supporting
Michigan's Proposal 12-2. (WASHINGTON TIMES, STATE NET)
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