Organized labor suffered a crushing blow with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) victory in Tuesday’s recall, a possible sign of their fading power and a worrying result for union supporters ahead of November’s election.
“They picked a fight they weren’t able to win,” said Gary Chaison, a labor expert at Clark University. “This shows them at their weakest. They’ll try to put a happy face on this but this is nothing less than a calamity for them.”
Unions combined to spend more than $10 million on the race and were the driving force behind the recall effort. But even in Wisconsin, long a bastion for organized labor and the birthplace of public employee unions, they couldn’t defeat a governor whose defining achievement was stripping public workers of their collective bargaining rights.
The fight to recall Walker was the biggest battle labor has waged in years — and to their credit, Democratic turnout was sky-high Tuesday. But Republicans managed to outpace them, aided by nearly $30 million spent by Walker.
Democrats and unions were outspent by a two to one margin by the governor and his allies in the race, the most expensive in Wisconsin history.