Governor Scott Walker (R., Wis.) is about to give every woman in his state the right to choose . . . whether or not to join a union. He will sign legislation today that will make Wisconsin America’s 25th Right to Work (RTW) state.
Of course, that right also will apply equally to men.
Walker’s signature will extend to private-sector employees the same protections that he and Wisconsin’s legislature provided government workers through Act 10 in 2011: Union membership will be a choice rather than a condition of employment. Dues will be paid voluntarily, not vacuumed automatically from workers’ wages, even before they see their paychecks.
This news will put Walker in the national limelight as this week dawns. Heading toward 2016, this new RTW law will help Walker burnish his conservative credentials even further. He already can point to a long list of successes beyond wholesale labor reforms. Among them: cutting $2 billion in state taxes, converting a $3.6 billion deficit into a $517 million surplus, expanding school choice, requiring voter ID cards, and terminating taxpayer subsidies for Planned Parenthood.
Walker accomplished these things not in a Republican stronghold like Arkansas or Texas, but in a state that last went Republican for president in 1984, when Ronald Reagan was on the ballot. The Badger State is the birthplace of government-worker unions and the late U.S. senator “Fighting Bob” La Follette, father of what liberals now call Progressivism. As Mike Flynn observed February 28 on Breitbart.com: “Politically, Walker isn’t bringing coals to Newcastle.”
A Wisconsin RTW law would be like Democrats implementing a 25 percent state income-tax rate in Alabama. The odds are that no other Republican presidential aspirant will accomplish anything so significant anytime soon.
None of the U.S. senators eyeing the White House can achieve very much, as long as Obama and his veto pen occupy the Oval Office. Governor Chris Christie (R., N.J.) is unlikely to attempt anything bold (why start now?), and his Democrat legislature likely would stop him if he tried. Former governor Jeb Bush has been out of office for eight years and is in no position to sign anything. Dr. Ben Carson, who apologized last week for bizarre and unhelpful statements about gay sex in prison, never has possessed the power to reform public policy.
In contrast to these potential rivals, Walker leads a state government with a cooperative Republican legislature. They likely will put additional signature-ready bills on his desk that will endear Walker even more deeply to the GOP primary electorate and Americans thirsty for limited, constitutional government come fall 2016. This will make Walker’s beacon shine even more brightly.
RTW is the One A Day vitamin that every state should take to improve or maintain its health. Between 2003 and 2013, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports, real manufacturing GDP grew 26.1 percent in RTW states vs. 13.8 percent in forced-unionism states. Private non-farm payrolls grew 9.2 percent in RTW states vs. 4.0 percent in the others. The number of residents between ages 35 and 54 grew 5.4 percent in RTW states, according to the Commerce Department, and shrank 4.1 percent in the rest.
Likewise, RTW should help Wisconsin’s economy expand even more robustly than it is today. Walker’s policies and leadership have helped cut unemployment on his watch from 7.7 percent to 5.2 percent today, versus 5.5 percent nationwide. This will position Walker very well in the primaries and, if he is nominated, even better in about 18 months, as the battle against the Democrat nominee rages in full.
Walker’s RTW triumph should resonate especially well with primary voters in the earliest contests.
“While the schedule is flexible, the projection is that five of the first seven primaries and caucuses will occur in RTW states,” notes Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC).
Iowa, New Hampshire (the state legislature adopted RTW before Democrat governor Maggie Hassan vetoed it), South Carolina, Nevada, North Carolina, and Utah all are likely to vote before February 17, 2016. If the GOP nomination remains in play, five of the eight states that are expected to vote that March 1 are RTW: Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
Wobbly-kneed Republicans might worry that a Wisconsin RTW law would enrage unions even further and fuel an even harder fight against Walker. It is difficult to imagine union bosses being any more anti-Walker — even if he never signed another law. Also, the unions will come out with meat cleavers and chain saws against any GOP nominee, including the ghost of Arlen Specter — if he could spook the convention into picking him. So, Republicans should assume holistic hostility from the unions, no matter what, and simply go about their business.
“Even without Right to Work on Walker’s résumé, union officials would go all out against him anyway,” says NRTWC spokesman Patrick Semmens. “But, as polls show, union members actually support RTW and disagree with the political priorities that union officials push. So, while no GOP nominee is going to get the support of union leadership, there is a significant percentage of union members who would not consider Right to Work a non-starter for winning their votes.”
While top unionists tend to march lockstep with Democrats, Democrat voters support RTW. According to a Gallup survey last August, 65 percent of Democrats would vote for a RTW law, as would 74 percent of Republicans. Independents are even more enthusiastic, with 77 percent of them favoring RTW legislation. This strongly suggests that rank-and file union members, many of whom are Democrats, nonetheless will be neutral to positive about Walker’s RTW law. Republicans will applaud, and independents will cheer loudly.
Walker’s RTW signature will occur just over a week after his strong second-place finish in the CPAC straw poll, just before the gathering closed on February 28 at the Gaylord Resort in National Harbor, Md. Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) won for the third consecutive year, largely thanks to his fervent young supporters. Many of them learned of his victory, leapt to their feet in the Potomac Ballroom, rhythmically clapped their hands in unison, and chanted: “President Paul! President Paul! President Paul!”
Senator Paul, however, slid from 31 percent support last year to 26 today. Walker, in contrast, soared from 7 percent in 2014 to 21 this year. When the 3,007 CPAC voters’ first and second choices were combined, Paul scored 42 percent. Walker: 40.
For his part, Jeb Bush’s ballyhooed name ID and establishment cash secured him an embarrassing fifth-place berth, with a humiliating 8 percent of votes cast. He couldn’t hit double digits. Even worse, the former Florida governor was the only person whose name was booed as The Polling Company president Kellyanne Conway unveiled the straw poll’s results.
In roughly one week, Scott Walker wooed conservative activists and weakened Big Labor. All in all, the governor of Wisconsin walks on.
— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.