Tim Stanley is a British historian and pundit who writes mostly about the U.S. In a recent commentary for The Daily Telegraph in London, Stanley calls attention to the success of Wisconsin’s Act 1o, a nearly three-year-old budget reform package crafted by GOP Gov. Scott Walker. (See the link below.) Key provisions in Act 10 protected the vast majority of state and local public employees in Wisconsin from compulsory dues and fees and sharply reduced the scope of government union officials’ monopoly bargaining privileges.
Act 10 has made it possible for cities, towns, counties and school boards to use their resources more efficiently. Local elected officials have thus been able to get expenditures under control while only rarely resorting to blunt instruments such as layoffs. Walker and other pro-Act 10 elected officials, as well as grass-roots Right to Work activists and other ordinary citizens who lobbied successfully on behalf of the reform, certainly deserve credit for its success.
However, it is going to far to suggest, as does the headline of Stanley’s commentary, that Walker and his allies have “saved Wisconsin.” The state’s private-sector employment growth, as the governor’s critics never tire of pointing out, has been anemic over the past three years.
If Walker, who appears to be contemplating a 2016 presidential run, wants to be able to boast about strong job growth as well as an improved fiscal outlook, he would do well to consider the examples of two other Midwestern states, Indiana and Michigan, whose recently-adopted Right to Work laws took effect in February 2012 and March 2013, respectively.
According to a December 20 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report on monthly job growth in the 50 states, in November 2013 private-sector employment in Indiana soared by more than 25,000, a record one-month gain for the Hoosier State. And Michigan, after being rated as a “high out-bound state” f0r 16 years in a row in United Van Lines annual survey of its customers, saw its out-migration slow “to a virtual halt” in 2013, according to an AP analysis of the UVL survey.
To have a truly robust economy, Wisconsin needs to protect the Right to Work in the private- as well as the public sector. And of course, the moral case for protecting private-sector employees’ freedom of choice regarding unionism is just as strong as the case for protecting public servants from compulsory union dues and fees.