Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Didn't Campaign on Union-Busting

The Wisconsin governor didn't campaign on breaking the unions.

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One defense Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his allies have conjured up in trying to explain that his union-busting is in fact something other than union-busting is the assertion that he is merely fulfilling campaign promises. “The simple matter is I campaigned on this all throughout the election,” he has said. Most national political reporters, not having actually covered the Wisconsin gubernatorial election, might be inclined to take the governor at his word. Fortunately for journalists and news-consumers alike, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel partners with the website PolitiFact, meaning that Wisconsin politics is under a greater an especially powerful microscope.

PolitiFact looked at Walker’s claim that his extreme power grab was just part of his campaign agenda. They rated it as “false.”

[See photos of the Wisconsin protests.]

Walker certainly campaigned on the broad idea of getting health and pension concessions from public workers, PolitiFact found, but he never broached the idea of rolling back their collective bargaining rights. In fact, the group notes, when he talked about such concessions it was in the context of ‘asking state workers’ to make concessions, in negotiations--not trying to unilaterally extract such concessions. [Read the U.S. News debate: Should public sector workers have collective bargaining rights?]

PolitiFact sums up:

Walker contends he clearly "campaigned on" his union bargaining plan.

But Walker, who offered many specific proposals during the campaign, did not go public with even the bare-bones of his multi-faceted plans to sharply curb collective bargaining rights. He could not point to any statements where he did. We could find none either.

While Walker often talked about employees paying more for pensions and health care, in his budget-repair bill he connected it to collective bargaining changes that were far different from his campaign rhetoric in terms of how far his plan goes and the way it would be accomplished.

There is of course a difference between campaigning and governing. The fact of omitting a specific policy from one’s campaign agenda doesn’t make it illegitimate. But by claiming to have campaigned on the proposal, Walker is trying to frame it as being a voter-endorsed policy, which it is not. [See 10 things you didn't know about Scott Walker.]

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