John Nichols on May 24, 2012 – 12:07 PM ET
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has adopted a Southern strategy—touting the “accomplishments” of the most conservative governors from the states of the old Confederacy—as he enters the critical final weeks of the historic Wisconsin recall election.
Walker, who has aggressively challenged Wisconsin’s progressive tradition, is bringing in Southern governors who promote union-busting policies and economic-development strategies that raid Northern states and move jobs to states where organized labor is restrained and wages are kept low.
Next week, the Wisconsin governor who last year led the fight to strip collective-bargaining rights away from public employees and teachers, will campaign with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who proudly describes herself as “a union buster.”
In an interview with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News Wednesday (following an interview with Walker), Haley proudly declared: “There’s a reason South Carolina’s the new ‘it’ state. It’s because we’re a union buster.”
Haley has been the chief proponent of so-called “right to work” laws that undermine the collective bargaining and organizing rights of unions. She dismissed union members as “thugs” and said: “I’m not going to stop beating up on the unions.”
That’s a big deal in the Wisconsin recall race, as Walker has been under pressure to explain his appearance in a video where he and a wealthy donor are seen discussing strategies to make Wisconsin a low-wage “right to work” state.
Walker says that he does not plan at this point to promote the sort of “right to work” legislation that he once championed as a state legislator—and that his chief legislative allies are currently talking up. But he has not said he would veto a right-to-work law. And Walker has shown no qualms about campaigning side-by-side with the nation’s most ardent advocate of right-to-work laws.
Haley has gone out of her way in recent months to identify herself as the nation’s leading champion of right-to-work laws—and, arguably, it’s most prominent and militant critic of organized labor. She says: “Unions are not needed, wanted or welcome in South Carolina.”
The South Carolina governor recently promoted a package of “reforms” that will give South Carolina the toughest right-to-work laws in the nation.
And Haley wants to take right-to-work national: “Barack Obama doesn’t appreciate right-to-work states. Mitt Romney appreciates right-to-work states,” she said after endorsing Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination. “I need a partner in the White House.”
In fact, Haley needs a lot more than that. Her “it” state has experienced a 4 percent decline in wages since she took over—no small matter in a state that has historically had some of the lowest wages, weakest public services and most dismal education scores in the United States. Indeed, South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian says of Haley: “Rather than campaigning with Walker or Romney, she ought to sit in a classroom in an under-performing school.”
Haley has opted to skip the school visit and campaign in Wisconsin.
And that raises some questions for Scott Walker.
The governor of Wisconsin—who told Congress and the people of Wisconsin he’s not anti-union—ought to be asked what he thinks about Nikki Haley’s “unions are not welcome” rhetoric.
The Wisconsin governor should also be asked about the lengths to which a state should go to become what Haley describes as an “it” state.
Should unions be busted?
Should education funding be cut?
Should public services be shut down?
And should economic development be based on raiding other states?
That question came into stark relief Wednesday, when Walker scheduled stops in Wisconsin with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.
Jindal has been a leading proponent of “corporate raiding” strategies that are used to move jobs from Northern states to the South.
And Jindal’s Louisiana has raided Wisconsin.
In 2009, Gardner Denver closed its manufacturing facility in Sheboygan, Wisconsin—where the company and its predecessor (Thomas Industries) had produced pumps and air compressors for seventy years—and left 366 workers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union members and non-union employees, without jobs.
Where did there jobs go? Monroe, Louisiana.
Why? Because Louisiana state government gave away massive tax breaks and other benefits to the company.
“Gardner Denver said Louisiana would reimburse the company for most of the cost of moving equipment and staff to Monroe, provide yearly payroll and sales tax rebates and help the company with recruiting and training,” reported the
in 2009. “The City of Monroe also plans to help with the construction of a 124,000-square-foot factory adjoining the company’s plant.”
Jindal, who will be in Wisconsin to raise money for Walker’s campaign, won’t be visiting Sheboygan, which took a hard hit when Louisiana raided its industrial base and continues to experience higher-than-average unemployment.