AFL-CIO President Says Labor Owes Walker a 'Thank You'

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has two words for Scott Walker: "Thank You."

The Wisconsin governor's plan to restrict collective-bargaining rights for government employees, which unexpectedly passed Wednesday night in the state Senate, has energized the labor movement in a way not seen in a generation, Trumka said.


"We probably should have invited him today to receive the Mobilizer of the Year award," Trumka said.

Speaking at a conference hosted by the progressive group Campaign for America's Future hours after Walker's Republican allies in the Wisconsin state Senate ended a weeks-long standoff with a sneak parliamentary maneuver to pass the proposed labor restrictions, the labor chief was more defiant than crestfallen.

"In your lifetime, have you ever seen this much solidarity?" Trumka said to the crowd. "Have you ever seen this much excitement?"

Walker's legislation has become a national flash point, with thousands of Democrats and union workers flooding the state capitol in Madison to protest what they see as an overreach by the new GOP governor. Republicans have argued that the legislation is necessary to balance the state's budget and symbolic of the fact that voters are more fed up with public-sector unions than ever before.

Trumka said the controversy has helped shift the focus away from austerity measures to collective-bargaining rights and the economic health of the middle class.

"This is a debate we've wanted to have for 20-25 years," he said. "Well, guess what? Suddenly, the debate came to us.

"And here's the most beautiful part of it: We're winning that debate with the American people," he said.

Presented by

Alex Roarty is a politics writer for National Journal.

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This wildly inventive short film takes you on a whirling, spinning tour of the Big Apple

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Politics

Just In