Yes, labor lost its attempt to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker,
one of the most virulent labor opponents anywhere. But as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka declared, the heated election
campaign was "not the end of the story, but just the beginning."
The campaign, triggered by Walker all
but eliminating the collective bargaining rights of most of Wisconsin's 380,000 public employees, showed that labor is
quite capable of mounting major drives against anti-labor politicians, a lesson that won't be lost on unions or their
And Labor's political enemies, while perhaps emboldened by labor's failure in Wisconsin,
undoubtedly will hesitate, lest they be confronted with similarly heavy union opposition in their attempts to restrict the
bargaining rights of public employees.
Think of it: Labor was outspent hugely by outside corporate interests that
funneled $50 million into Walker's campaign, outspending labor seven-to-one. Yet labor managed to capture nationwide attention
and support, and though losing the gubernatorial race, managed to wrest control of Wisconsin's State Senate from Walker's
Trumka was rightly awed by "the tremendous outpouring of solidarity and energy from Wisconsin's
working families, against overwhelming odds. Whether it was standing in the snow, sleeping in the Capitol, knocking on doors
or simply casting a vote, we admire the heart and soul everyone poured into this effort" in response to "a gargantuan
challenge" to labor.
The Senate victory was almost as important as recall of Walker would be. It gave Democrats
a one-seat majority in the 33-seat Senate, which will make it much harder for Walker and his Republican allies to enact his
Trumka says he believes "the new model that Wisconsin's working families have
built won't go away after one election – it will only grow." The election, he adds, was "an important
moment, and an important message has been sent: Politicians will be held to account by working people."
as Trumka says, was forced "to answer for his efforts to divide the state and punish hard-working people." Trumka
optimistically believes that inspired working people elsewhere, union and non-union alike, will follow the lead of the anti-Walker
forces and "forge a new path forward."
Trumka concludes that the challenge to labor and its allies in
Wisconsin and everywhere else is "to create an economy that celebrates hard work over partisan agendas." He said
the recall election moved that goal closer.
Of course Richard Trumka is highly partisan, as he should be. But that
doesn't necessarily lessen his credibility. Facts are facts. Although not victorious, labor waged an extraordinary campaign
that laid the groundwork for future campaigns that could result in important labor victories.
That would at the
least increase the strength of the nation's working people and diminish the strength of those who, like Scott Walker,
would weaken the vital rights of workers and their unions.
Copyright © 2012 Dick Meister