When Scott Walker kicked off his campaign to reduce state government spending he made several mistakes. First, he didn’t anticipate the scope of the dispute, that in challenging teacher’s collective bargaining rights, he would attract the ire of every trade union in the country.
Secondly, he obviously didn’t anticipate that 14 of his state legislators would pack up and depart for the No-Tell Motels of Indiana. That action alone should have been the red flag. He was at war.
Finally, Walker didn’t realize the degree to which the unions had been preparing for his move on public employee’s bargaining rights. There was nothing spontaneous about the protests that followed the Governor’s attempt to bring common sense to state government spending.
For nine years I was an officer in one of the largest unions in the world, first as a shop steward and then in various higher district lodge offices. In 1978, I was a negotiator and strike organizer in a strike that eventually ended in the virtual demise of the commercial aerospace industry in the United States. It was not the desired or anticipated outcome but it certainly ended that way.
The first thing the company did when we went out on strike was to file a lawsuit against my fellow negotiators and me personally. I cannot describe the shock when I stepped out of my front door and found three reams of paper sitting on my welcome mat. The lawsuit named me and cited specific charges—all of them created from whole cloth—as to my “illegal actions” against the company. The suit was the first in a series of tactical moves by the company to throw the union off guard. Before the strike was over, the company had terminated some of my fellow workers, and lodged more complaints against us, both criminal and civil.
I should say here, that unions are full of thugs, but I was not one of them.
Of course, when the work stoppage ended, every one of us had our jobs and the suits and charges against us were dropped as part of the negotiated settlement. The company had used these methods for 40 years in every strike against them, but we still had to defend ourselves in the courts until the strike was resolved.
This is the strategy Walker should have employed against both his AWOL lawmakers and public servants who have hindered his ability to govern for more than three weeks. The Governor is now acting against his legislators, but he should have taken the offensive immediately.
Walker should have immediately hit the missing senate members with fines, regulations anything at his disposal to disrupt their attempt to slowdown government. By not doing so he has given them a platform from which to wage a public relations campaign against him. The legislators are in violation of their oaths of office and there are legal remedies to deal with their actions, whether they have been used before or not.
Walker may win in Wisconsin; there is still reason for hope. But he has suffered a loss in the court of public opinion that he quite possibly could have avoided.
The public is overwhelmingly on the side of the American worker, but when the polls are conducted properly, showing the results of continued capitulation to extravagant labor demands, they will turn out on the side of their pocketbooks every time.
Granted, the courts in the long run may have thrown out many of Walker’s actions to bring the Democrats and labor to their knees, but tactically overloading the opposition is a tried and true method of winning in a labor dispute.
It will be interesting to see how other governors will act in coming days as the unions and Democrats widen their campaign to price state governments into bankruptcy. If John Kasich and Mitch Daniels maintain the offensive in their respective states, they are likely to accomplish more, faster, than Walker has in Wisconsin.