Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett faced off in their second and final debate before the state’s labor union-induced recall election this Tuesday. During the debate Walker defended his reforms to public sector wokers, saying his decision to curb collective bargaining for most public employees was working for taxpayers and that he deserved his full term. Walker defended the approach which he says led to more than $1 billion in savings and was the only way to fix the state’s budget without significantly raising taxes or damaging services. Walker has held a solid lead over his Democratic challenger in the week before the election, but Barrett come out aggressively Thursday night, calling attention to investigations stemming back to Walker’s tenure as Milwaukee County executive. While some suggest Barret may be closing the gap, the governor’s reforms and hyper politicization in the state since 2010 looks to have had a toll on labor regardless.
A Wall Street Journal report this week finds that public sector unions in Wisconsin have seen a dramatic drop in membership since the Walker reforms were enacted. With Walker up seven points in the most recent polling, many observers are now wondering if a Walker win will mean the end of big labor as we know it.
Michael Lotito, a San Francisco attorney who represents management in labor disputes and has testified on labor issues before Congress, told the WSJ that a victory by Walker “will be a dramatic signal to local and state politicians they can, in the name of fiscal responsibility, tell unions…to come into parity with private-sector workers, especially on benefits.”
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, joined “Real News” Friday to discuss the effect of the Walker reforms on the decline of membership in the state’s public sector unions, whether or not collective bargaining is really even is a right, and the national implications a Walker win could have on austerity and labor.