What's at Stake in Wisconsin: Liberalism, oikophobia and public-sector unions
If the polls are correct, next Tuesday Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker will be--hmm, what's the opposite of "recalled"? In other contexts it would be "forgotten," but that obviously doesn't fit here. "Re-elected" isn't right; that won't happen before 2014. Our inability to think of a suitable verb shows how unusual this situation is. Here's another indication: Wikipedia lists only 16 unsuccessful recall elections, both state and local, in U.S. history. Seven of them took place last year and targeted Wisconsin state senators.
Although last year's recall elections targeted senators from both parties (two Republicans and no Democrats actually did go down to defeat), it was the Democrats who initiated the current recall mania, and their main target was always the governor. The recalls are the latest in a series of extreme measures aimed at first preventing and then retaliating for Walker's budget reforms, which curtail the power of government employee unions. Last year Democratic senators fled the state in an effort to deny a legislative quorum. Unionists held massive demonstrations, replete with violent rhetoric, both outside and inside the Capitol. Supporters of the governor received death threats.
Walker and his fellow Republicans stood firm and enacted the reform law. To judge by a news report in The Wall Street Journal, it has been a remarkable success. "Public-employee unions in Wisconsin have experienced a dramatic drop in membership--by more than half for the second-biggest union," the Journal reports:
Wisconsin membership in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees--the state's second-largest public-sector union after the National Education Association, which represents teachers--fell to 28,745 in February from 62,818 in March 2011, according to a person who has viewed Afscme's figures. A spokesman for Afscme declined to comment.
Much of that decline came from Afscme Council 24, which represents Wisconsin state workers, whose membership plunged by two-thirds to 7,100 from 22,300 last year.
The American Federation of Teachers reports it has lost 6,000 of 17,000 members. These losses can be expected to mount as existing contracts expire. Once that happens, as the Journal explains, under the Walker reforms the state stops withholding union dues from the employees paychecks unless the employee asks to pay them. ...