WASHINGTON -- Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisc.) has, undoubtedly, paid a price for ramming an anti-collective bargaining measure through the state Senate. In the weeks since its passage, his poll numbers have sagged, Wisconsin counties have flipped from GOP to Democratic control, and a state Supreme Court expected to be a walk for the Republican candidate has become tighter than anticipated.
Officials say the long-term policy implications of Walker’s ploy far outweigh the professional or even personal damage the governor has incurred.
“I think it was worth the cost,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue, at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor. “It put out a clarion call that there is a fundamental reality in the states. And these, by the way, were not California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts -- where these issues are even more fundamentally difficult. These were in states where governors came in, looked at the numbers and understood they were on a slippery slope, and they better go stick a stake in the ground or it's going to be really, really difficult. I think it was well worth it,” he said.
With his comments, Donohue -- a long-time foe of labor unions in both the private and public sector -- underscored the extent to which debate over labor policy has shifted from the federal to the state level. Equally telling, however, was the gentle critique of Walker that Donahue offered next.
“Did they do the best messaging?” Donohue asked. “Were they governors for a long time? [Did they] figure out how to make it work? No, they were all learning. And if you look at what happened in Wisconsin and then in Indiana where Mitch [Daniels] had to change some of his -- then you go to Ohio, and they did it a little better. So people are all going to learn from that.”
Walker did, of course, have a difficult time with the messaging aspects of his anti-collective bargaining push. Perhaps his best-known gaffe was accepting a prank call from web editor pretending to be one of the Koch brothers.
But more than a few labor activists would argue that it was the policy overreach, not the communications strategy, that has landed the governor in his current precarious political position.