How Doomed Are Unions? A Scale from Pretty Doomed to Apocalypse

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There is much punditocratic disagreement over what the Wisconsin recall election Tuesday night means for Gov. Scott Walker, President Obama, Democrats, and the general election. But there seems to be near universal agreement on one thing: Unions are toast. These are dark days for the folks that brought you the weekend, and liberals are feeling pretty pessimistic, while conservatives are gloating a bit. We've placed the punditry on a scale of doom. 

The National Review's Jim Geraghty. Geraghty writes that Walker did unions a favor by letting them know they're unpopular. "The leadership of the unions have done a terrible job – and have spent years convinced that the membership loved them, and that the public thought well of them as well. That may have been true at some point, but it is no longer the case, and no amount of spin can change that. Better for these organizations to confront the hard truth, and work to earn back that trust of members and the public at large, then to insist that all is well and ignore the problems."

NBC News' First Read. The group blog writes, "If you are going to try to kill the king, you better make sure you succeed... While labor and state Democrats lost the legislative battle over collective bargaining last year, they had won the public-relations fight: Walker’s approval rating declined, and the political consensus was that the Wisconsin governor had overreached. But labor and its supporters went for the kill. First, they launched recalls against GOP state senators in 2011, picking up two seats but not enough to switch control of that chamber. And then they launched their recall against Walker and lost. (A small silver lining for them: They appear to have picked up another state Senate seat, thus flipping control.) They didn’t have the patience to wait until the November presidential election or until 2014 to exact their revenge. And they lost."

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New York's Jonathan Chait. "Walker’s win will certainly provide a blueprint for fellow Republicans. When they gain a majority, they can quickly move to not just wrest concessions from public sector unions but completely destroy them, which in turn eliminates one of the strongest sources of political organization for the Democratic Party. And whatever backlash develops, it’s probably not enough to outweigh the political benefit. Walker has pioneered a tactic that will likely become a staple of Republican governance. Fortune favors the bold."


Mitt Romney's Florida senior adviser Brett Doster. "Pack it in, Unions. It's over."


The Washington Post's Ezra Klein. "[L]abor's inability to win the recall is more evidence of their inability to reverse their own structural decline. They're not winning on worksites, as the share of the labor force that's unionized has been dropping for decades, and they're not winning at the ballot box." That means labor is getting weaker as corporations get stronger, Klein says, and Democrats will have to suck up to corporations more so they're not outraised by Republicans. "For a long time, a lot of the energy has been devoted to the question of "how do you revive the labor movement?" The truth is, at this point, you probably can't. You can slow decline. And you can score isolated wins. But it's hard to see a real turnaround in labor's fortunes."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.