Labor Reform in the States

A Visual Timeline

The timeline below shows that, despite threats from unions and the politicians they back, voters continue to support legislators and governors who pass labor reforms which favor taxpayers and workers.

This timeline examines labor reforms and the electoral aftermath in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Missouri from 2011 to 2014. Universally, the party which supported reform maintained and, in some cases, increased its legislative majority and kept the governor’s mansion. Nearly all elected officials who voted for pro-worker and pro-taxpayer legislation won their general and recall elections.

These results cannot be dismissed as wave elections favoring one party over another.

Despite voters favoring Republicans at the state level who supported labor reform, these same elections saw those very states re-elect President Barack Obama and send other Democrats to Washington.

If nothing else, examining elections over the last five years show that big labor’s bark is much worse than its bite, and that voters reward those who champion the reform. ♦

Download a PDF of the timeline here.

This timeline takes place across five states, as indicated by color. Don't want to view the full timeline? Click each state to view an abbreviated version.

Michigan Ohio Wisconsin Indiana Missouri Show All


  • March 11, 2011

    Gov. Scott Walker (R) of Wisconsin signs Act 10 to curtail government union privileges following a month of protests in Madison, which included 14 Democratic state senators fleeing the state.

  • March 31, 2011

    Gov. John Kasich (R) of Ohio signs Senate Bill 5 to curtail government union privileges.

  • April 6, 2011

    First “referendum” on Act 10 of Wisconsin: A Supreme Court race between Republican-leaning incumbent Justice David Prosser and Democratic-leaning challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg. Central issue of the race was Act 10, and it was commonly thought that if Kloppenburg won, she would be the swing vote to overturn the bill.1 Justice Prosser won after a recount and Wisconsin labor reforms were protected at the state high court.

  • May 3, 2011

    Wisconsin election to fill three empty Assembly seats vacated by Republicans who resigned to join the Walker administration. Republicans retain two of the seats.2

  • July 19, 2011

    First Wisconsin recall election against Sen. Dave Hansen (D) for “not showing up for work” — he was one of the 14 legislators that fled the state when Act 10 was moving through the Legislature. Hansen wins with 66 percent of the vote.

  • Aug. 9, 2011

    Second round of Wisconsin recall elections. Six Republicans were targeted and four retained their seats.3

  • Aug. 16, 2011

    The third round of Wisconsin recall elections result in two Democrats retaining their seats.4

  • Nov. 8, 2011

    Senate Bill 5 is repealed by Ohio voters 62 percent to 38 percent.


  • Feb. 1, 2012

    Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) signs right-to-work legislation.

  • June 5, 2012

    Gov. Walker (R) of Wisconsin survives recall attempt, winning by a larger margin than his original victory in 2010. Act 10 was only a minor issue in the campaign, presumably because challenger Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) used Walker’s reforms to help his city. Republicans also win three of four Senate recall campaigns. Democrats in Wisconsin now have a majority in the Senate, but the legislative session ended two weeks earlier and a new one will not start until after elections in November.5

  • Aug. 27, 2012

    Proposal 2, a ballot proposal to enshrine collective bargaining in Michigan’s constitution, is cleared for the 2012 ballot.6 The constitutional amendment would give government union contracts the ability to override legislation and would have prohibited a right-to-work law. The proposal is described as one of labor’s top priorities nationwide.

  • Nov. 6, 2012 General Election Results

    Indiana: In the first election since the Hoosier State enacted right-to-work, Republicans pick up nine formerly Democratic seats in the House and do not lose any seats in the Senate. Mike Pence (R) is elected governor to replace term-limited Gov. Mitch Daniels (R).7 While Mitt Romney (R) wins the state over President Barack Obama, Hoosiers send Joe Donnelly (D) to the U.S. Senate to fill the formerly Republican seat.

    Michigan: Voters reject Proposal 2 by 15 points, even as Pres. Obama wins Michigan by nine points and U.S. Sen. Stabenow (D) is re-elected by over 20 points.

    Ohio: In the first general election since the passage and repeal of Senate Bill 5, the Ohio Senate balance remains the same. Ohio Republicans pick up one formerly Democratic seat in the House. Only two Republicans who voted for Senate Bill 5 lose their seats.8 U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) was re-elected by 6 percent. Obama wins the state by 3 percent.

    Wisconsin: Republicans win back majority in the Senate, meaning Democratic control would only last during the legislative recess.9 In the State Assembly, Republicans gains two seats. After this election and several rounds of recall elections, Democrats in Wisconsin are up only one seat in the Senate compared to where they were in 2011.10 Pres. Obama wins Wisconsin by 7 percent. Tammy Baldwin (D) is elected to the U.S. Senate by 6 percent.

  • Dec. 4, 2012

    Special election in Wisconsin is held to fill an empty seat (Senate District 33). Rep. Paul Farrow (R) is unopposed and wins the seat.

  • Dec. 11, 2012

    Gov. Rick Snyder (R) makes Michigan the 24th right-to-work state. Rep. Doug Geiss (D) threatens: "There will be blood . . . there will be repercussions." Rep. Shenelle Jackson (D) predicts: "What you're doing today will only serve to empower [Democrats] … [Democrats] will win back this chamber, possibly take the Senate back and certainly win the governorship.”


  • April 9, 2014

    Right-to-work legislation wins majority approval in the Missouri House (78-68), but failed to receive enough votes (82) to send the bill for consideration by the Senate.11

  • May 28, 2014

    Michigan’s deadline for placing voter-led initiatives on the 2014 November ballot passes without any signatures being submitted on behalf of legislation that would overturn right-to-work, which opponents of the policy initially wanted to do.

  • July 7, 2014

    Michigan’s deadline for placing constitutional amendments on the 2014 November ballot passes without any signatures being submitted for a constitutional repeal of right-to-work. Unions balk at first chance to put Michigan’s right-to-work law before voters, and the law is safe from repeal.12

  • Oct. 12, 2014

    In Michigan, Gov. Snyder (R) and challenger Mark Shauer (D) schedule only one debate. Neither candidate brings up right-to-work as a primary issue. The only mention of the law is by the debate moderator, and only as a part of a question about a different issue. Subsequently, right-to-work is not a significant issue debated in the 2014 gubernatorial election in Michigan.

  • Oct. 16, 2014

    David Crim, a consultant for one of the largest government unions in Michigan, admits: “I do not believe that on November 4th, when people go to the polls, they are going to say ‘you know what I am going to decide who I am going to vote for, for governor, for the legislature, any office on the ballot based on the right-to-work law that was passed.’”

  • Nov. 4, 2014 General Election Results

    Ohio: Gov. Kasich (R) is re-elected with 64 percent of the vote in the first gubernatorial election since the passage and repeal of Senate Bill 5. Republicans also gain five House seats and lose no seats in the Senate.13

    Indiana: House Republicans gain two seats. Senate Republicans gain three seats.14

    Michigan: Gov. Snyder (R) is re-elected with 52 percent of the vote in the first gubernatorial election since passage of right-to-work. Senate Republicans gain a member. Michigan Republicans in the House gain four members. Right-to-work is barely an issue in the campaign, and no legislator who voted for right-to-work losses in the general election.15

    Wisconsin: For the third time in four years, Gov. Walker (R) is elected governor. Republicans gain a seat in the Senate.16 Republicans also gain three seats in the House.

    Missouri: No legislator who voted for right-to-work loses.

  1. ^ On the day of the election, unofficial results have Kloppenburg in the lead by 204 over Prosser. But on the April 7, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus announces she incorrectly entered vote totals and that more than 14,000 votes were not reported. On April 15, the official results put Prosser in the lead by 7,500 votes. Kloppenburg asks for a recount on April 20.

  2. ^ Duey Stoebel (R) wins by 76 percent over Rick Aaron (D); David Craig (R) wins over James Brownlow (D) with 74 percent; and Steve Doyle (D) wins over John Lautz (R) with 54 percent.

  3. ^ Two senators are unsuccessful with their recall elections: Sen. Randy Hopper (R) loses to Jessica King (D) who gets 51 percent, and Sen. Dan Kapanke (R) loses to Rep. Jennifer Shilling (D) who gets 55 percent. The four senator who stave off recall are Sen. Roberts Cowles (R) with 57 percent Sen. Alberta Darling (R) with 54 percent, Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, (R)with 58 percent, and Sen. Luther Olsen (R) with 52 percent.

  4. ^ Sen. Jim Holperin (D) wins over challenger Kim Simac (R) with 55 percent, and Sen. Robert Wirch (D) wins against challenger Johnathan Steitz (R) with 57 percent.

  5. ^ Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R) also wins her recall elections. Gov. Walker defeats Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) 53 percent to 46 percent, a 1 percent larger margin of victory than their original faceoff for governor in 2010. Of the Senate recall elections, Sen. Terry Moulton (R) wins with 57 percent, Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R) wins with 61 percent, and Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) wins with 58 percent. A fourth senator, Sen. Pam Galloway(R) resigned before a recall election could take place, though enough signatures were gathered to hold one. Sen. Petrowskiwins that seat. Sen. Van Wanggaard (R) is challenged by his predecessor, John Lehman (D) and loses (after a recount) 51 percent to 49 percent.

  6. ^ On June 13, proposal supporters submitted 684,286 signatures of the 322,609 needed. Lawsuits about ballot language delayed final approval.

  7. ^ Attorney General Greg Zoeller (R) is re-elected. Romney wins the state by 10 percent, even though Obama won the state in 2008 by 1 percent.

  8. ^ These were Craig Newbold (R) and Casey Kozlowski (R).

  9. ^ The Wisconsin Legislature reconvened on Jan. 7, 2013.

  10. ^ And uncontested election in December would add another Republican to the Wisconsin Senate, so as to make the Democrats’ gains since 2011 one seat.

  11. ^ A simple majority of those present is needed for early approval of a bill, but to send legislation to the Senate, a full majority of the entire chamber is necessary.

  12. ^ A legislative attempt was made in July of 2013 to put a constitutional amendment before voters to ban right-to-work, but it had little support and never went to vote.

  13. ^ Ohio House moves from 39 Democrat: 60 Republican to 34 Democrat: 65 Republican. Attorney General Mike DeWine(R) and Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) both re-elected. Senate remains 23 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

  14. ^ All Indiana U.S. House incumbents won re-election. Secretary of State Connie Lawson (R) was re-elected.

  15. ^ Secretary of State Bill Schuette (R) re-elected with 52 percent of vote. U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D) is elected by 13 percent to U.S. Senate. Each U.S. House district sends back a candidate from the same party as they did in 2012.

  16. ^ Gov. Walker wins 52 percent, and Mary Burke, his challenger, gets 47 percent. Senate now 14 Democrat: 19 Republican, State House 36 Democrat: 63 Republican.