Timeline Shows Big Labor’s Bark is Worse than Its Bite

In the first election in Michigan after the passage of right-to-work, not a single legislator who voted for worker freedom lost in the general election.

A new interactive timeline, “Labor Reform in the States,” shows Michigan’s experience is common to the other states that recently passed reforms. 

The timeline examines labor reforms enacted from 2011 to 2014 and the subsequent elections, all of which took place in Midwestern states long considered union strongholds.

Despite massive protests and threats from unions and the politicians they support, brave elected officials who backed reforms won re-election, almost universally.

In the election after Indiana passed right-to-work, Republicans picked up nine seats in the Senate and did not lose any in the House. Mike Pence, a Republican, replaced term-limited Gov. Mitch Daniels, a fellow Republican who signed worker freedom into law.

Wisconsin saw perhaps the largest protests against government union reforms when Gov. Scott Walker signed Act 10 in 2011, which strongly curtailed government union privileges. State and national unions attempted to undo the reforms and unseat Walker, but they failed miserably.

From 2012 to 2014, Walker won a recall and general election and Republicans kept majorities in the Wisconsin Legislature. In several smaller elections that were considered referendums on the reforms, voters refused to send politicians to Madison to undo Act 10.

In Ohio, the same electorate that repealed Gov. John Kasich’s Senate Bill 5 — another measure that would have curtailed government union privileges — re-elected him and kept Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

The reformers’ victories cannot be dismissed as the result of Republicans getting lucky in a few wave elections. For at the same time voters were siding with reformers and electing state Republicans who backed reforms, they were also sending Democrats to Washington and supporting President Obama.

The lesson from the victories of elected officials who took on big labor over the last few years is clear: Voters will side with those who support pro-worker and pro-taxpayer policies.