After leading a campaign of demoralizing workers as governor of Wisconsin, Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker will propose abolishing unions for federal employees, dismantling the National Labor Relations Board, and making right-to-work laws the nationwide standard.
Labor unions are essential for protecting the rights of workers, and collective bargaining has led to many of the worker protections that are in place today. Nevertheless, in an attempt to impose more “freedom,” the Republican Party has long fought against the rights of workers to organize and demand fair wages. Gov. Walker’s proposals, to be set out in a speech on Monday in Las Vegas, represent some of the most radical anti-labor laws in recent memory.
Labor law professor Ann Hodges, who described the law as “draconian,” said, “I’ve never seen anything like this. This will take the breath away from anyone who’s worked in labor relations for any length of time.”
Walker plans to ban unions for all federal employees; eliminate the National Labor Relations Board, which protects against employer abuses; restrict union organizers’ access to employees; and make all workplaces “right-to-work” unless states opt out. Right-to-work laws prohibit unions from collecting dues from employees who are not members of the union, even though these employees benefit from the same collective bargaining deals as the rest of the labor force.
Walker’s aggressively anti-labor plan comes at a time when his popularity is at an incredible low. Walker claimed just 3% of a recent Quinnipiac University poll of Iowa Republican voters. Similarly, a recent poll showed that 57% of people in Wisconsin are unsatisfied with Walker’s performance as governor.
As governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker pushed through a bill that effectively did away with collective bargaining for public employees. Although this move was faced with massive public opposition and protests involving tens of thousands of people, Walker believes that his ability to fight the will of the people is actually what makes him qualified to lead the country! In a speech given at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Walker said, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.” At a time when protests against economic and social injustice continue to spring up around the world, Walker thinks we need a leader who can ignore and repress the masses. Such anti-free-speech pronouncements are frightening in today’s climate.
Although it is seeming less and less likely, if Walker were to win the Republican nomination, at least we would know what to expect – more attacks on the rights of workers and dismantling of the middle class. Although Labor Day may have passed, it is important to remember that collective action is essential to improving working conditions. According to the International Trade Union Confederation’s ranking of global workers’ rights, the United States ranks as a 4, a category involving “systematic violations of rights.” His willingness to ignore the wishes of the public and cater exclusively to the oligarchs may have won him his recall election in Wisconsin, but it will not win him the presidency- or even the primary.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.