Unions are claiming that they “made their voices heard” in the Midterm elections, declaring victory for labor-endorsed candidates across the country, including more than 800 union members who ran for office and won. This was particularly true in the Midwest.
Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, who easily won a third term against a formidable opponent, praised organized labor in his victory speech, and indicated it will play a significant role in the 2020 election.
In the immediate aftermath of the election, the defeat of Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin was being read by some as a return of Midwestern union power. Gov. Walker spent years fighting the state’s public-sector unions. His 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, also known as the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, took away public employees’ collective bargaining power, forced leaders to engage in annual certification elections and required most public employees to pay more toward health insurance and pensions.
Union leaders and the Chicago Sun-Times cheered the defeat of “organized labor’s Public Enemy No. 1.” To add insult to injury, Walker lost to Tony Evers, a former teacher and the state school chief. Evers, along with every other Democratic challenger for governor, has pledged to repeal Walker’s Act 10.
One month after the election, however, Republican state legislators have decided they’re not quite ready to work within this new dynamic. Earlier this month, Republicans set a new and interesting precedent when they introduced several bills designed to curb the powers of the incoming governor, including one that would transfer control of the state’s job creation agency from the governor to the Republican-controlled legislature, and another that would strip Evers of his ability to approve major actions by his attorney general – also a Democrat who has promised to withdraw the state’s lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. After a 24 hour session, the legislation passed.
Unions have claimed partial credit for other state races, including the winning gubernatorial campaigns of Democrats in Illinois and Michigan – where we’re seeing similar efforts to dilute the power of incoming Democrats from the Republican-controlled legislature.