Scott Walker became famous for breaking the unions in Wisconsin. But for GOP voters, the issue no longer resonates as it once did.
Scott Walker is doubling down on his anti-union message. But GOP voters don’t seem to be listening.
Walker traveled to union-friendly Las Vegas Monday to inveigh against “big-government union bosses.” He pledged elimination of the National Labor Relations Board. He promised a national “right to work” law freeing workers from mandatory payments to unions that bargain collectively on their behalf. And he said he’d block President Barack Obama’s proposal to expand overtime eligibility to 5 million new workers
“Collective bargaining is not a right,” Walker said. “It is an expensive entitlement.” He pledged “to wreak havoc on Washington.”
For Walker it may be a last stand as his support tumbles from double digits as recently as July to a dismal 2 percent, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday. Walker’s presidential campaign is premised in a large part on the idea that GOP primary voters will flock to a candidate willing to confront and diminish the power of organized labor. Walker aides say his anti-union platform is designed to portray the Wisconsin governor as a politician who can easily translate his statewide successes to the federal government. “He has this record of results,” a senior Walker aide said. “We’re taking that record of results and building on them and showing the American people what it could look like at the national level.”
But one of 2016’s biggest surprises is that the anti-union message isn’t selling, either for Walker or for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another GOP candidate who’s built much of his campaign around his willingness to face down union bosses. Unions don’t seem to loom especially large as a problem to rank-and-file Republican voters. Trump’s economic populism may also be undermining the anti-union message. And with the economy finally recovered from the Great Recession, public rancor against organized labor has diminished.