Dramatizing Governor Walker’s Point

by Christian Schneider

If you were watching the Oscars in Wisconsin last night, chances are you were treated to a new anti-Scott Walker ad by a group calling itself “America’s Families First.” The ad, entitled “Prank Call,” begins, “What kind of governor would refuse to meet with nurses, teachers, and firefighters, but takes a 20-minute call from an oil billionaire?”

Based on their website, it’s hard to figure out exactly who America’s Families First is, but any betting person would conclude that it’s union money attempting to dissuade voters from supporting Walker’s attempts to roll back collective bargaining in Wisconsin. (The AFL-CIO also began running anti-Walker ads a few days ago.) If so, then it follows a long line of innocuously named groups in Wisconsin suspected of being funded by organized labor (Independent Citizens for Democracy, Building Wisconsin’s Future, the Greater Wisconsin Committee, etc.).

But this ad makes one of Scott Walker’s strongest points for him.

The public-sector unions have successfully shifted the conversation in Wisconsin to collective bargaining — they claim it’s not about the money, having conceded Walker’s financial demands. Yet they are using the sacrosanct concept of “collective bargaining” as a carapace to protect what they truly value: union dues.

Public-sector unions use these compulsory dues to run ads like this one. WEAC, the state’s largest teachers’ union, reports spending $3.6 million on such ads in the past two election cycles.

Walker’s plan allows union members to discontinue paying these dues. When Gov. Mitch Daniels gave them the option in 2005, 95 percent of Indiana’s public-sector workers chose to halt paying their dues. If such a thing were to happen in Wisconsin, it would harm the attempts of public-sector unions to elect sympathetic lawmakers (who then do things like fleeing to other states to protect the unions’ revenue stream).

The next time Walker speaks to public-sector-union members, he should pull out a copy of the “Prank Call” ad. He should ask the workers whether they’d rather pay for political ads or keep that money in their pockets. Somehow, I don’t think union leadership would like the answer.

— Christian Schneider is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.

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