Part 1: Governors Enacting Anti-Union Laws

Midterm elections – meaning those elections in the middle of a president’s four-year term – often present an opportunity for drastic shifts in power in local and federal lawmaking.

With that in mind, it is important to note that a number of the states electing governors next year have been ground zero in the battle over workers’ rights for more than a decade.

In 2010, a number of anti-union governors were elected including Scott Walker (Wisconsin, 2011-2019), and Rick Snyder (Michigan, 2011-2019).

Photos taken in 2010 during the demonstrations at the capitol in Madison, Wis., during the fight against "Right to Work."

Although they claimed to be pro-worker, they moved quickly to advance an agenda that favored corporate interests. Without support from voters, they passed so-called “Right to Work” laws and other restrictions that were intended to decimate both public and private sector unions. Since adopting these changes, their states have lost more than 150,000 union jobs – a nearly 15 percent drop according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, labor-backed governors Tom Wolf (Pennsylvania) and Tim Walz (Minnesota) have fought strongly against similar laws. Combined, their states have only lost 5 percent of total union jobs over the same decade.

During their tenure, Walker and Snyder were ranked the seventh and eighth least popular governors in America and faced recall campaigns following their efforts to dismantle union rights in their states. (Source)

Although Walker survived the 2012 recall election, he was defeated in his campaign to be elected to a third term by Tony Evers.

The effort to recall Snyder fell short in collecting the necessary number of signatures. He was reelected in 2014, but was limited to serving two terms under the Michigan state constitution. In 2018, Michiganders elected Gretchen Whitmer, a state senator who was outspoken against Snyder’s anti-union agenda.

In addition to Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, a number of the states electing governors in 2022 are densely-populated with active and retired Steelworkers and our families, including Georgia, Ohio, Maryland, Maine, New York, and more.

Depending on who voters elect in these states in 2022, labor could face another decade of battles against anti-union governors as in 2010.

However, that is not a foregone conclusion because our union is already laying the groundwork on our efforts to elect pro-labor governors who will work with us to ensure workers’ rights are a priority.