The Backlash to the GOP’s Union-Bashing Has Begun in Earnest

Has the Republican Party’s grand experiment in union-busting finally come to an end? Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, rose to national prominence in 2011 when he passed a landmark bill dealing a blow to unions in the state and across the country. With Act 10, Walker stripped public workers of their right to collectively bargain, gutting their salaries, health care, and pensions. He then survived a vigorous recall effort, which featured 100,000 protesters storming the capitol rotunda in downtown Madison.

Walker was the face of an anti-union movement championed by Republicans and backed by libertarian financiers like the Koch brothers. But seven years later, in the midst of an ostensibly booming state economy, Walker narrowly lost his reelection bid on November 6—and he was not the only anti-union gubernatorial candidate to go down this election season.

The defeat of Walker in Wisconsin, as well as Bill Schuette in Michigan, Bruce Rauner in Illinois, and Kris Kobach in Kansas, is evidence that union-bashing politicians are finding it difficult to appeal to workers in a humming economy, which would otherwise seem to validate their claims that low wages and right-to-work laws have unleashed the prosperity-making powers of the market.

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