By NEMS Daily Journal
Wisconsin voters defeated a union-backed recall of Republican Gov. Scott Walker this week, affirming him in the office he won in 2010 when he defeated Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the same Democrat he defeated in the general election two years ago.
For organized labor, which took a beating in 2010, the unsuccessful recall is seen as a referendum on its political power.
Driven by shrill protests of union members, especially public employees represented by unions, about state budget cuts, job impacts and collective bargaining curtailment, a campaign to force a recall vote succeeded. But Walker won by about the same margin as 2010 despite a higher percentage of his vote coming from union members, polls showed.
The Wisconsin recall and the union energy poured into it links to Mississippi, where the United Auto Workers reportedly is pushing hard to organize the Nissan assembly plant’s employees in Canton.
Mississippi historically has not been a pro-union state, and a right-to-work law limits union organizing efforts to the state’s economic development advantage.
The Wisconsin vote, which was also widely backed by the state’s Democratic establishment, illustrates the most negative – and unrealistic – impact of union-driven politics. Wisconsin’s budget, like Mississippi and many other states, was hard hit by the recession. Gov. Walker’s proposed cuts rubbed against the union grain, and the fight began.
Unions too often refuse to face economic facts, which is the reality of organized labor’s failures, and its fade from the center of the American economy.
In 1983, the benchmark year for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, organized labor had 20.1 percent of the workforce and 17.7 million members nationwide. In 2011, the union percentage was 11.9 and membership was down to 14.8 million.
The United Auto Workers, which seeks new members in Mississippi, in 1979 had nearly 1.5 million members; today it has 380,719 members nationwide. Part of the precipitous decline is traceable to the unreasonable and anti-competitive labor costs demanded by unions at the traditional U.S. Big Three automakers. All teetered on the brink of shuttering their doors during the recent recession, with U.S.-made foreign competitors also pressing for advantage.
Mississippi has 1.081 million workers, but only 5 percent are unionized – about 54,000. Some of those jobs came to Mississippi in part because of the largely union-free workforce, including Nissan and Toyota.
Wisconsin’s political turmoil and the decline of organized labor generally suggest the union way isn’t the best way for Mississippi workers.