Wisconsin Democrats‘ inability to defeat three Republican incumbent state senators in the recent recall elections here in Wisconsin is a devastating loss for Big Labor. These recalls were Big Labor’s last stand and will have national ramifications for years to come.
A host of political action committees associated with national and state labor organizations shelled out more than $16 million for nine recall elections. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees poured nearly $3 million into the races; the AFL-CIO ponied up $5.2 million.
The Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s NEA affiliate, spent more than $800,000. The accompanying chart elsewhere on this page only accounts for direct contributions that triggered reporting requirements.
Union member-to-member communications and unregulated issue-advocacy efforts are not included, so the total union effort was significantly larger than what is captured in the chart.
In Senate District 8 alone, the “crown jewel” of the recall effort as Wisconsin Democratic Party head Mike Tate labeled it, overall spending in the race topped the $10 million mark, compared with a paltry $3 million for the same seat in 2008.
Big Labor wanted to purchase to control of the state senate to act as a roadblock to any further taxpayer-friendly policies and as a catalyst for an anticipated 2012 recall of Gov. Scott Walker, labor’s new archenemy.
Big Labor hoped such a stunning midterm reversal would send shock waves to Republican governors and lawmakers in other states like Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey and elsewhere. “Don’t mess with us, or there will be payback!” To win the majority, the Democrats’ coalition needed to knock off three GOP state senate incumbents.
The Big Labor campaign had deep pockets, volunteers from around the country and apparent momentum to back up their optimism. The majority was well within their grasp or so they thought.
But, contrary to the prediction of Democratic state Sen. Fred Risser, Big Labor failed to defeat all six Republican incumbents. They even failed to win the three seats they needed to get the majority. After all the smoke cleared, Republicans retained control of the state senate, 17-16 (It was previously 19-14).
Elected officials from across the nation, many struggling under the same government employee benefit cost anchors that we face here in Wisconsin, will look at the political results with new confidence.
There is proof now the public will support elected officials who rein in government employees’ platinum benefits and not throw them out of office. There is proof now that the many voices of the taxpayer drown out the few union members.
Communities across Wisconsin are already seeing proof that asking government employees to contribute 12 percent toward their health care and 6 percent toward their pension can generate a windfall of taxpayer savings and prevent unnecessary layoffs or program cuts.
The early results have been staggering. Ninety-three school districts have restructured benefit costs, saving taxpayers more than $150 million. If each of Wisconsin’s school districts achieve this level of savings, statewide savings would cross the $500 million mark.
And just this week, WEAC announced it has to terminate more than 40 percent of its employees this month. Without the forced conscription of union dues from the paychecks of the state’s public school teachers, WEAC will no longer have the funding to pay for business-as-usual. This is the first, but certainly not the last of such announcements by public employee unions here.
Which explains why Big Labor fought so hard, and spent so much money, in an off-election year no less, trying to obtain control of one branch of one statehouse in one Midwest state.
It wasn’t about evil corporations or the super-rich. For Big Labor, it was about the survival of Big Labor.
Brett Healy is president of Wisconsin’s MacIver Institute for Public Policy.
Read more at the Washington Examiner