Recall election jeopardizes union reforms

If a national symbol exists for the movement to rein in the power of public employee unions, it is Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker. He pushed aggressive measures to curb the power and influence of government unions and now faces a union-funded recall campaign, which, if successful will empower unions and expand their power in Wisconsin and throughout the country.

One million petition signatures were submitted last week, seeking the recall of Walker in retribution for his 2010 successful reform agenda which included revisions to the pension system, the ways union dues are collected and collective bargaining. He predicted a recall election would be held in June or July.

For observers outside the Badger state, Walker’s approach was encouraging, especially to us in New Mexico, where unfunded public employee retirement benefits threaten to bankrupt the state.

Walker’s initial success raised hopes for a wave of reform across the nation, which is why it is so critical that the recall fails. The Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore recently wrote that this “might be the most important nonpresidential election in a decade.” Moore’s sentiments are correct but the Walker recall is not only the most nonpresidential election in a decade, but arguably perhaps the most consequential election in the country this year.

The stakes are so high that groups throughout the country are becoming involved on both sides. In an email message, Orange County Republican Party Chairman Scott Baugh asked donors to commit funds to help defeat the recall.

“The unions have made it clear, Wisconsin is their last stand,” Baugh wrote. “They want to recall Gov. Walker to show that you can’t make fundamental changes to the way government does business. From Hawaii to Maine, governors are following Walker’s lead in reforming public sector employee benefits. Make no mistake, if Gov. Walker is not successful in defending his common sense reforms against the out-of-control union interests, it will be virtually impossible to see reforms in California. The progress made in 2011 by Gov. Walker in Wisconsin and others, Democrats and Republicans, across the country will be lost if Gov. Walker is defeated.”

If the recall effort succeeds against Walker, public-sector union reform efforts will be stifled nationwide. It is most critical that he prevail.