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Bloomberg: Union-Bashing No Longer a Viable Campaign Strategy

Scott Walker labor unions

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A recent article in Bloomberg Politics suggests that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s exit from the presidential election is a sign that the political appeal of bashing unions has peaked

As a last ditch effort to save his campaign, which just months earlier saw him polling as the favorite in Iowa, Walker announced he would make sweeping, draconian changes to national labor law if elected.  His polling numbers then fell below one percent and it was over.  Prior labor demonization efforts, when Walker compared unions to ISIS, caused his numbers to tumble, too. Even laughinstock Rick Perry questioned Walker’s viability at that time.   

The truth is Americans view unions more favorably than in recent years. The union boogeyman is becoming a dated concept.  A Gallup poll found that unions had a five point upswing in favorability in the past year, with 58 percent of Americans approving of them.  The numbers were even higher among women and young people, both election bellwhethers. 

This momentum is making campaigning on an anti-union message very dangerous.  Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup poll, told Bloomberg that the numbers don’t lie: “For a politician looking to reach a broad national audience with an anti-union strategy, they should look at the data.”

Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, argued that people’s interest in fighting inequality is leading them to support unions:

“People are waking up and realizing that unions are important to establishing balance in our economy.  People are very anxious about what’s happening to the American middle class. And income inequality is at an all-time high.”

Worker wins can be found in increasingly unexpected places of late. Alabama factory workers just joined the UAW by a two-to-one margin, Texas handed down its first wage theft conviction, and Kansas has been home to multiple truck driver triumphs.  Earlier this month, “Right-to-Work” failed to earn enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto in the Republican-held Missouri legislature.  Step by step, unions are taking back what they have lost and public support is part of the turning tide.

According to Bloomberg, Republicans should take note of this and act accordingly, in Illinois specifically:

Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner is insisting that local units of government can declare themselves right-to-work zones. He has also pushed for the elimination of collective bargaining in local contracts. The Democratic-controlled legislature has rejected both proposals, adding to a budget impasse that enters its third month this week.

The Gallup poll might suggest the need for politicians such as Rauner to re-calculate.

“Republicans might be moderating their approach to attacking organized labor,” said Robert Bruno, a Chicago-based assistant professor of labor and industrial relations at the University of Illinois. “There’s a backlash against the growing income divide, and organized labor is benefiting from that.”


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