Wisconsin recall: AFL-CIO’s Trumka declares (moral) victory over Gov. Scott Walker

Whether or not Democrats and their labor union allies succeed in recalling Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker next month, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is ready to declare at least a moral victory.


AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in his office. (Bill O'Leary/WASHINGTON POST)

What if Walker, the prime target of the country’s labor movement in a campaign viewed by many on the political left as rivaling the presidential race in importance, were to prevail?

“He would be a debilitated governor for the next two years in office, and he would be finished the next time he runs,” Trumka said in a new interview.

The union leader made his comments in an interview taped Friday for C-SPAN’s Newsmakers program, which is scheduled to air Sunday at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Democratic divisions in Wisconsin are prompting concerns among party and labor activists there that they may ultimately fall short in their quest to oust Walker, whose push last year to curtail collective bargaining rights for many public workers led to a full mobilization of the country’s labor movement.

Walker, his lieutenant governor and four Republican state senators are facing recall elections on June 5. A Democratic nominee to challenge Walker will be chosen Tuesday.

Victory by the governor would be viewed as a major setback for unions, which have poured millions of dollars into the campaign and hope to make a powerful example of Walker.

Perhaps in anticipation of a disappointment in Wisconsin, Trumka sought to downplay the importance of the vote as a political test.

Walker “is still very, very unpopular,” Trumka said. “He is permanently unpopular because he took on and he attacked workers rather than creating jobs.”

The Democratic front-runner is Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who has had a rocky relationship with labor union leaders, many of whom are backing another candidate, Kathleen Falk.

“Whichever one of those wins, everybody’s going to come together,” Trumka said, adding later: “We’ll take out Scott Walker.”

Trumka also predicted victory in “a couple of” the state Senate races, as well, which would put the chamber under Democratic control.

That result, plus Walker’s bruised image, would not likely embolden other GOP lawmakers around the country to take on bargaining rights, Trumka argued. “Not if you’re sane and rational, it wouldn’t,” he said.

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