Union bosses dumped more than $7.5 million into the Wisconsin and Michigan governor races only to see both states’ labor-reforming incumbents re-elected.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, both Republicans, were two of the five governors publicly targeted by union coalition AFL-CIO in February. Last Tuesday, Walker defeated Democrat Mary Burke 52-47, and Snyder defeated Democrat Mark Schauer 51-47.
Big labor hates — and in 2012 tried to recall — Walker because of 2011’s Act 10, a centerpiece of his agenda limiting the power of public-sector unions. Snyder signed two right-to-work laws in 2012, empowering most Michigan workers to opt out of paying labor union bosses and launching himself near the top of the union enemies list.
Without accounting for union contributions to Democratic Party committees or any of a laundry list of politically active “progressive” nonprofits, unions this year spent at least $4,387,631 against Walker and at least $3,276,973 against Snyder. These figures likely far understate unions’ staff and monetary investments in both races.
Based on campaign finance reports filed with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, Burke’s failed campaign received more than $650,000 of cash and in-kind support from labor unions.
The Washington, D.C., headquarters of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, United Food and Commercial Workers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and International Association of Fire Fighters each sent Burke donations of the maximum $43,128 allowed by state law.
National Education Association headquarters sent Burke $43,000 from D.C., and her campaign received max contributions from Wisconsin Professional Police Association, United Auto Workers Wisconsin and NEA-affiliate Wisconsin Education Association Council. Several WEAC locals gave Burke four- or five-figure donations.
Campaign finance reports submitted to the Michigan secretary of state show union contributions to Schauer exceeding $630,000. International Union of Painters and Allied Trades sent $50,000 from its national headquarters, IBEW headquarters donated $44,500, UFCW headquarters gave $44,300 and AFSCME headquarters gave $34,000.
Schauer received maximum $68,000 contributions from the Michigan affiliates of UAW and Communications Workers of America, and received $60,381 from Michigan Education Association.
Although labor bosses profess opposition to unlimited independent expenditures from “super PACs,” most union spending against Walker and Snyder came from independent expenditures. Union fronts Greater Wisconsin Committee and We Are Wisconsin spent a combined total of more than $3.7 million in big labor’s latest attempt to defeat Walker.
Greater Wisconsin Committee PAC spent $1,218,468 in the governor’s race and received $1,298,000 from WEAC in the latest reporting period. AFSCME headquarters funneled $2,370,000 to We Are Wisconsin Political Fund and WEAC gave $500,000 during the latest reporting period, while the group spent $2,517,443 in the governor’s race.
“Once again, Big Labor failed in its attempt to defeat Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the author of collective bargaining reform,” Brett Healy, president of the Wisconsin-based, free-market MacIver Institute said in an email to Watchdog.org.
“One union boss even said they had ‘a score to settle’ with Walker,” Healy added.
“Wisconsin taxpayers, on the other hand, are ecstatic that Act 10 has saved them almost $3 billion dollars over the last (four) years which has led Walker to cut taxes by $2 billion dollars, freeze property taxes at 2010 levels statewide and freeze tuition at the University of Wisconsin.
“The popularity of Act 10 with Wisconsinites is exactly the reason why Big Labor’s decision to spend their members’ hard-earned money on this wild-goose chase is so ridiculous and disappointing,” Healy said. “It is clear the unions are more worried about yielding crass political power than the welfare of their members.
“Sounds to me like the taxpayers have settled the score, once and for all, with Big Labor,” Healy said.
In Michigan, union super PACs sank more than $2.6 million into unseating Snyder. NEA Advocacy Fund spent $703,747, Service Employees International Union Community Alliance spent $689,270 and AFL-CIO’s Workers’ Voice spent $632,459.
Michigan For All spent $644,617 in the governor’s race, fueled by donations of $300,000 from SEIU Community Alliance, over $700,000 from AFSCME, and more than $400,000 from NEA Advocacy Fund.
F. Vincent Vernuccio, labor policy director at Michigan’s free-market Mackinac Center, told Watchdog.org the Nov. 4 election “was less a referendum and more a reaffirmation on labor reform.”
“The referendums occurred in May and July, which were the two deadlines for unions to put right-to-work on the ballot in Michigan, either as an initiative or a constitutional amendment,” Vernuccio said. “And it happened throughout the governor’s race, where right-to-work was not even an issue used by Snyder’s opponents against him.”