In the wake of the WI-Gov results, I keep thinking of Martin Niemoller's famous quote about the lack of German resistance to the Nazis:
First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
They clearly came for the trade unionists in WI last winter, and their success in doing so was confirmed tonight. The decline of public employee unions in WI was already frightening:
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.We've seen 3 decades of sustained assault on labor ever since Reagan busted PATCO in 1981. That assault may be approaching its terminal stages. We've seen a coordinated assault on labor in the Midwest--a RTW law in IN, an attempted gutting of public employee unions in OH, and the gutting of public employee unions in WI. After tonight, there will be more to come--Walker was already videotaped promising to push for a RTW law.
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 [...]
Membership declines could be self-perpetuating, said Mr. Chaison of Clark University. With diminished dues, unions deliver fewer services, making membership less appealing and hampering recruiting.
While no one in the upper echelons of the party seem to recognize that fact, the fortunes of labor and the Dems have generally moved in tandem since the time of FDR. The party has no other base that can provide the shoe leather necessary for effective GOTV operations. It's not a coincidence that the period of labor's ascendancy was the one period of Dem dominance since the Civil War.
The GOP came for labor, and the Dems barely noticed. Remember EFCA? Recall how a similar bill died in a filibuster in a Dem-dominated Senate filibuster in 1978? It's not a pretty history:
Table 1. Congressional Voting on Labor Law Reform, 1965–2007Truth is, WI-Gov is merely the latest in a long line of failed attempts to preserve union strength. I'm not sure how many more attempts there can be at this point.
Employee Free Choice Act, 2007 (failed)
House (March 1, 2007) Senate (June 26, 2007 cloture vote)
Democrats: 228 yes (99%), 2 no Democrats: 48 yes (100%), 0 no
Republicans: 13 yes, 183 no Independents: 2 yes
Total: 241 yes, 185 no Republicans: 1 yes, 48 no
Total: 51 yes, 48 no
Workplace Fairness Act (Striker Replacement Bill), 1993 (failed)
House Senate (cloture vote)
Democrats: 221 yes (87%), 33 no Democrats: 50 yes (89%), 6 no
Independents: 1 yes Republicans: 3 yes, 40 no
Republicans: 17 yes, 157 no Total: 53 yes, 46 no
Total: 239 yes, 190 no
Labor Law Reform Act, 1977–1978 (failed)
House Senate (1978 cloture vote)
Democrats: 221 yes (79%), 59 no Democrats: 44 yes (72%), 17 no
Republicans: 31 yes, 104 no Republicans: 14 yes, 22 no
Total: 252 yes, 163 no Total: 58 yes, 39 no
Repeal of Section 14(b) of Taft-Hartley Act, 1965–1966 (failed)
House Senate (1966 cloture vote)
Democrats: 200 yes (70%), 86 no Democrats: 45 yes (67%), 22 no
Republicans: 21 yes, 117 no Republicans: 6 yes, 26 no
Total: 221 yes, 203 no Total: 51 yes, 48 no