Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is best known for severely weakening the public unions in his state in 2011, sparking angry protests and a recall election that he survived. Now, as Walker tries to revive his bid for the presidency, he is reminding primary voters of that fight -- and plans to call for sweeping national labor reforms during a speech in Las Vegas on Monday afternoon.
On the long list of changes Walker wants to make: enact national right-to-work legislation, dissolve federal unions and repeal President Obama's labor regulations. Walker would work with Congress to enact many of these changes, "or when appropriate, use the power of the executive to make commonsense changes to some of the workplace rules set by Washington," according to an advance copy of an eight-page proposal the campaign shared with reporters.
"For too long, union special interests in Washington have used the system to unfairly benefit themselves at the expense of the American worker," the policy proposal states. "My reforms will preserve long-standing democratic principles and protect employee privacy. Americans deserve a president who commits to policies to increase jobs and reward hard work."
On the campaign trail, Walker frequently describes unions as pro-big-government special interest groups led by corrupt union bosses. But his attacks come as most unions in many states have already been greatly weakened and are no longer the political force they once were. Union membership nationally has dwindled, and 25 states have already passed right-to-work legislation, which forbids unions from mandating membership. Walker will outline his proposals in a warehouse at XTreme Manufacturing, which makes heavy equipment and construction machinery in Las Vegas, a city where unionized workers staff many of the casinos and resorts.
Here are some of the labor changes Walker will propose:
National right-to-work legislation: Walker wants to change federal law so that no employee is forced to join a private, state or local union. States would still have the power to pass legislation to opt out of having a right-to-work status. Walker writes in his proposal that in some states, workers are required to join a union and pay dues -- sometimes as much as $1,000 per year, he notes -- only to see that money spent on political campaigns they do not agree with, which he considers a violation of the freedom of speech.
Eliminate federal unions: On Walker's first day in office, the federal government would stop withholding union dues from employee paychecks, forcing unions to gather their funding independently. Walker would then work with Congress to pass a law prohibiting unions for federal workers. He would also "stand in solidarity with any governor, Republican or Democrat" who works to diminish the power of unions in their state.
Repeal President Obama's labor regulations: This would include a recently introduced proposals from President Obama to increase the maximum salary a worker can receive and still qualify for overtime pay and require federal contractors to provide paid sick leave. Obama doesn't need the approval of Congress to make changes like this, and he has made a number of substantial changes via executive order. Walker proposes giving works extra time off instead of overtime pay, which he says will give them more flexibility and time with their families.
Eliminate the National Labor Relations Board: This is the federal agency that helps private-sector unions organize or dissolve and investigates charges of unfair labor practices, among other things. But Walker alleges that the agency has become "a one-sided advocate for big-labor special interests" and is beyond repair. He would eliminate the agency and transfer most of its responsibilities to the National Mediation Board, which handles labor-management disputes involving railroads and airlines.
Mandate union transparency: Walker wants to require online disclosure of union expenditures, including total compensation of union officials. He would also direct the Department of Labor to provide states with information detailing how much money they could save by reforming collective bargaining.
Shield employees' personal information from unions: Walker wants to strengthen federal law to ensure a secret ballot system for votes on unionizing and approving a strike, protect workers from "threats, violence and extortion" during unionizing campaigns and require unions to regularly undergo recertification. He would also increase protections for whistleblowers who file reports against a union.
Repeal the Davis-Bacon Act: This 1930s legislation requires that workers on federal projects, especially the construction of highways, receive the local prevailing wage. Walker says the federal government is overpaying for these projects and could save $13 billion over 10 years by repealing the act, along with ending project labor agreements.