Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

The Worst Governor Ever For Workers?

Six years later, Gov. Scott Walker’s impact on unions, worker rights and jobs.

By - Mar 14th, 2017 01:40 pm
Gov. Scott Walker. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

Gov. Scott Walker. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

Terry McGowan is the president of Local 139, a statewide union of 9,000 heavy ­machinery operators who endorsed Scott Walker for governor in 2010 because he promised to increase highway funding and build more roads. McGowan was among a significant number of private sector union members who supported Walker, even after he succeeded in passing Act 10, which decimated public unions in Wisconsin.

Prior to the 2014 election, McGowan met with Walker, who was seeking a contribution and another endorsement for governor, as writer Dan Kaufman reported for the New York Times. “I looked across the table at him, and I said, ‘We are both God-­fearing men,’ ” McGowan said. “ ‘If you can tell me that right-to-work will not come on your desk, then I will take you for your word.’ He looked me in the eyes, and he said, ‘It will not make it to my desk.’”

And so McGowan’s union once again supported Walker. And just four months after his reelection, Walker signed a right-to-work bill championed by Wisconsin Republicans which makes it far easier for companies to kill unions.

The bill, as it turned out, was simply the first of many others that would hurt private sector unions. Six years after he first took office, Scott Walker has clearly emerged as the most anti-union governor in memory.

“Scott Walker will go down in history as the worst governor for workers,” says Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO. “He has a consistent record of attacking workers’ rights while failing to create jobs. Since the day Walker took office he has been looking to advance the wants and desires of his millionaire and billionaire campaign donors at the expense of working people.”

How badly have unions been hit by Walker? Act 10 left most public workers in the state without union representation and took $3 billion from the pockets of these mostly middle class workers, who were required to pay more for their benefits. As with Act 10, the Right to Work law will likely reduce the numbers of private sector union workers while reducing their average wage, as has happened in other states.

Those are the two biggest blows, but Walker and the Republicans have passed many other bills with a negative impact on unions and workers:

Repealing the 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which made it easier for women workers victimized by wage discrimination to seek remedies.

-Legalizing a “seven day work week,” repealing a law that said employees must have at least one day of rest every seven days.

Repealing the “living wage” law, which gave workers the option to demand better pay — as much as $6,000 annually — than the minimum wage. Meanwhile Walker and Republicans have resisted calls to raise the minimum wage, which have been passed in 21 states.

Ending prevailing wage requirements by local governments.

-Ending project labor agreements by local governments, which require the use of union workers for public works projects. The state Senate and Assembly have both passed similar bills which simply need to be consolidated.

-Eliminating child labor law rule that “16- and 17-year-olds couldn’t work more than 26 hours during a school week and more than 50 hours a week during vacations,” as reported. The new law lifted those restrictions.

Walker and Republican legislators are also pushing for more changes this session:

-Eliminating the century-old Labor and Industry Review Commission, which handles thousands of disputes between employers and employees each year. The commission, “whose three members are appointed to six-year terms by the governor, is an independent agency that provides a ‘quasi-judicial forum’ to resolve disputes involving unemployment insurance, workers compensation and equal rights,” as the Journal Sentinel has reported.

-Changing the Department of Workforce Development permit process for children aged 16 and 17 entering the workforce. This bill would weaken the state’s child labor law by eliminating the requirement for parents to approve their kid’s work schedule and other workplace conditions.

These laws were typically championed by the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and will certainly make things easier for businesses, while reducing worker rights and pay, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will help the economy. As Data Wonk columnist Bruce Thompson has written, there is no evidence right-to-work laws help the economy. And research suggests employees working more than 48 hours per week (much less seven straight days) suffer from fatigue, stress and mental and physical health problems, resulting in lower productivity.

Walker ran as the guy would bring make Wisconsin “open for business” and bring 250,000 new jobs to the state in his first term. So how has that worked?

The governor fell far short of his goal of creating 250,000 new jobs in his first term, and even today, after six years in office, has overseen the creation of just 185,208 new jobs, or 64,792 short of his goal. The state has consistently trailed the nation in job growth creation under Walker, using the quarterly jobs statistic Walker favors.

When asked about missing his jobs growth promise by the Journal Sentinel “Walker’s spokesman Tom Evenson didn’t address the jobs figures,” but offered this: “Wisconsin’s business climate has consistently improved from one of the worst in the nation to one of the best under Governor Walker… We’ve seen more people employed than ever before, wages are up, and Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate continues to be one of the best in the country.”

But as Bruce Thompson has reported, these ratings of a state’s business climate are contradicted by data showing the most highly rated states, like Wisconsin, have actually had the worst economic performance.

As for the idea that more people are working because the labor force participation rate is high, the state’s relative performance has actually declined slightly. In 2010 — the year before Walker took office — the state’s participation rate was 63.4 percent, compared with 58.5 percent nationally, meaning the rate here was 8.4 percent higher than nationally. Wisconsin’s January 2017 Labor Force Participation Rate increased to 68.1 percent compared to the national rate of 62.9 percent during the month, meaning the rate here was 8.3 percent higher than nationally.

As for the idea that average wages have increased in Wisconsin, Evenson offered no figures on this. The best I could find were figures showing a small improvement in median household income. Thus, the state’s median income of $50,293 ranked below the national median of $51,144 in 2010 and still ranked below the nation in 2015, at $55, 638 vs $55,775 nationally.

This modest improvement in the state versus national figure, however, only gives an average (as would an analysis of average wages). The entire thrust of the Walker administration has been to oppose anything that might reduce the growing wealth gap in America. Most of the $3 billion in increased benefits costs largely paid for by middle class public employees went to an income tax cut, and 44 percent of that went to the wealthiest 20 percent in the state.

Nationally and in Wisconsin the economy has grown tremendously since the Great Recession, but all the evidence suggests Walker’s policies haven’t changed the fact that Wisconsin regularly trails the nation in jobs growth. Meanwhile his tax policies have been skewed to help the wealthy and his weakening of public and private unions have given workers less power over working conditions, wages and benefits. Union leaders like Terry McGowan have learned a painful lesson: Walker’s policies are meant to put them out of business.

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54 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: The Worst Governor Ever For Workers?”

  1. Frank Galvan says:

    You could have just stopped at Worst Governor Ever.

  2. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Bruce, you keep topping your previous stupidity by this headline. Under Doyle in 8 years we lost 130,000 jobs in compares on 6 years of Walker up 200,000. If Obama had eve adopted any growth polices we would have gone over 300,000.
    Unemployment is the lowest in my history, our property taxes are lower now, than in 2008 plus we are poised for great growth cause we have come up forms he wort state in country for business, high taxes to one of growth and lower taxes.

  3. Vincent Hanna says:

    Here we go again. When the unemployment rate was used to praise Obama and the economy, WCD dismissed it and said that’s not an accurate way to measure the health of the economy. When it’s Walker and Wisconsin though, WCD uses the unemployment rate as evidence of a strong economy. You are a massive hypocrite WCD.

    It’s not just job growth but what kind of jobs they are. College grads flee the state by the thousands every single year. Why is that? Gee I wonder.

    The best economies are in blue states, for the hundredth time.

  4. Wifather2000 says:

    If Walker’s Wisconsin had just kept up with the national average under the very capable hands of OUR President Obama, Wisconsin would have well over 300,000 new jobs, instead of the paltry 176,000. Also any jobs lost during Governor Doyle’s term were less than the national average as under republican Bush II America was losing 800,000 jobs a month. Trickle down has never worked, never will and the republicans keep trying it, isn’t that insanity?

  5. fightingbobfan says:

    Once again Bob proves that being in love with money doesn’t make you smart when it comes economics.

    1. Hey genius, Doyle was governor, WE WERE IN A RECESSION. Walker couldn’t pull off a decent economy during a fairly decent recovery.

    2. What does Obama have to do with our economy. Funny Bob, other states have been doing better than us.

    Hope it is time for your dull boy governor to hit the crumbling road.

  6. fightingbobfan says:

    How does making some else’s life worse make yours better?

    Turns out it doesn’t.

  7. John says:

    Wisconsin Conservative Digest cites job losses during Doyle’s term that actually mirrored job loss around the country. But when Walker came to office, the economy was on a national rebound, one that Wisconsin has trailed for years under this governor. Just thought a bit of perspective would be helpful.

  8. Jason says:

    I am still waiting for all these non union buildings downtown to collapse. We kept being told that only union works can build a safe building structure. I look out my window and Cathedral place on East Wells is still standing after ten years. Now, if we can accept the notion that non union workers can plow snow from public streets that will be a sight to see. An Irish leprechaun bless the union man with that high end skill. Some day us little people will unravel that secret as well.

  9. Vincent Hanna says:

    Jason this post indicates that you are day drinking again. At least wait until Friday for that.

  10. Jeremy says:

    I tend to agree with Jason. Nothing is prohibiting any union employees from proving their merit as a better educated, higher quality employee than their non-union counterparts. It’s the perfect climate to state their case and prove their value. If anything, Act 10 didn’t go far enough. Public safety comprises 50% of most municipal budgets with taxpayers footing most of the benefits for those positions. Reset the market. Look what happened to qualified teachers in WI (, finally some respect for those that excel at their craft.

  11. Vincent Hanna says:

    Yes teachers are so respected in Wisconsin. That’s exactly how they feel too and why we’ve seen a huge decrease in enrollment in teacher prep programs. You couldn’t possibly misread reality any more than you did Jeremy.

  12. old baldy says:

    Did walker ever reply to the revelation by McGowan that the governor is a liar?

    A big reason for the teacher bidding war is the lack of folks going into the teaching field. Take a look at the number of grads from colleges in state compared to 20 years ago. Why the big drop? Poor pay for one, and the vilification by the current administration for teachers, or for education in general. And Act 10 allows wealthier suburban school districts to pay whatever it takes to get a teacher they want while there aren’t enough to go around for smaller rural schools. Try and hire a STEM teacher for a school in northern WI….

  13. tim haering says:

    Bruce, I don’t know which is more antithetical and annoying — your blaming Walker for the economy or Walker taking credit for it. He is just a governor, a politician, an expensive form of public distraction. Despite all the corporate money spent on them, politicians have little to do with the economy. It’s a curious mutual admiration society. Think of how many business executives there are and how few are big donors to campaigns. Much ado about nuttin. The economy runs itself. POliticians apply Marceau’s wind-walking to affect pulling the train.

  14. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Simple Fact. Powerful Unions, taxes have driven jobs and businesses down ought to Texas and other places.
    Yet this stupid headline seems to think that adopting all kind of crazy rules, regulations, taxes helps worker when it its the opposite.

  15. Vincent Hanna says:

    Exactly old baldy. Jeremy misses the point entirely. It’s not a good thing.

    Simple fact: Blue states have better economies. By far. Red states have this:

  16. Tim says:

    Act 10 should cover all public unions, why should police officers and firefighters be denied the benefits of that law?

  17. John Kishline says:

    WCD should look next door at Minnesota and learn how to write, spell and punctuate a proper sentence in his/her supposedly native language.

  18. all the evidence suggests Walker’s policies haven’t changed the fact that Wisconsin regularly trails the nation in jobs growth.

    Being below average is a dirty job but someone has to do it.

    Seriously, as far as I can tell job growth in American in 2017 depends on two factors — cheap labor or highly educated labor. We have neither. And the problem with the latter (besides the downward spiral of the UW system) is that highly educated people are very mobile and tend to move to places with where other highly educated people live.

  19. Seems to me that job growth in 2017 depends on two factors — cheap labor and/or highly educated work force. We have neither. To make matters worse, highly educated people are very mobile and tend to move where there are lots of other highly educated people.

  20. Ryan says:

    To expand on Tom’s point on mobility- what I saw in Wisconsin before I finally moved out, was that white collar jobs tend to pay much less in Wisconsin than other comparable states. It was like that in 2000 when I graduated and only got worse under walker. It doesn’t help that you have articles in journal sentinel where people contort themselves into all different shapes talking about a skills gap while somehow avoiding what is in plain sight- Wisconsin employers as a rule, both public and private, don’t pay market rate. And they don’t feel that they should have to. Workers eventually catch on and move to greener pastures.

  21. fightingbobfan says:

    Wisconsin could do better, much better.

    How can we say that?

    Suppressing wages and sending money out of state by cutting upper income taxes is no way to grow the economy.

  22. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    We saw what the clowns before Walker did in chasing jobs, businesses out of Wisconsin , the only govern to lose 130,000 jobs, in history, after 8 years.
    Tommy increased 750,000 in 12 years, Walker over 200,000. Believe fighting Bob ad you have a mess again.
    Some nut on this feed said look at Minnesota: Assoc press: “ about to take big hit. Medicaid up 1.3 billion next year and 5 billion by 2021. There go school aids.
    Thank you Scott Walker for not buying into he Halfast Train, the exchanges, the Medicaid disaster, Act 10,
    Instead we got stabilized property taxes after 40% increase under Doyle/and previous Dems, and income tax cuts, plus business growth.
    Keep whining Bruce and you bodies here. No one buys your crap, the Dems are completely lost, out of power and crabbing.

  23. Vincent Hanna says:

    Minnesota is doing better than Wisconsin in pretty much every possible way:

    Best states for business according to Forbes? Minnesota number 9, Wisconsin number 32. That must hurt WCD.

  24. Gleason says:

    McGowan and the Operating Engineers deserve what they got. The majority of Wisconsin workers who voted for Walker countless times and topped it off with a vote for Trump deserve what they got. Sadly, these poorly educated masochists have condemned their co-workers and neighbors to a third world economy of low wages, low skills and declining population.

  25. Thomas says:

    A juvenile chant popular at anti Act 10 rallies and at subsequent events has proven to be true: “”Walker is a weasel” rings true today – more evident than ever 6 years into this abyss. “Child is father to the man.” Juveniles sometimes speak truth. It may take a committed cadre of crabs to dispose of this weasel. We may have to be crabby from Appleton to Waukesha, and from Kenosha to Superior to rid our state of the weasel currently inhabiting our governor’s mansion.

  26. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Walker saved Wisconsin from becoming Illinois, turned it around, from 8 years straight downhill on the toboggan.

  27. fightingbobfan says:

    Illinois has a Republican governor Bob.

    Aside from that, you gloss over the fact that during Doyle we had one of the worst national recessions and coming out of it Wisconsin was 11th in job growth.

    Walker has a decent national economy and the state has languished in the 30s/40s for job growth.

    Thanks to people like you supporting a duo boy for governor, Wisconsin is not great.

  28. fightingbobfan says:

    Illinois has a Republican governor Bob.

    Aside from that, you gloss over the fact that during Doyle we had one of the worst national recessions and coming out of it Wisconsin was 11th in job growth.

    Walker has a decent national economy and the state has languished in the 30s/40s for job growth.

    Thanks to people like you supporting a dull boy for governor, Wisconsin is not great.

    We can do much better than this.

  29. Vincent Hanna says:

    WCD you are priceless. Someone shares the fact that blue Minnesota is superior to red Wisconsin in every way, so you quickly shift to Illinois. Hilarious. Also, you do realize that there are 48 other states to compare Wisconsin to? Being better than Illinois does not mean much. It’s like saying the Bears are better than the Jaguars.

  30. old baldy says:

    wcd always seems to leave out the part where his idol, TGT (and guilty by association, McCallum) , left the state in the mess that walker (and wcd) blames on Doyle. TGT over built prison and highways, and screwed up the school funding system for years to come. And left the big hole in the budget that walker uses as an excuse every time there is a cut to education or environmental programs.

  31. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Even Bruce Murphy had to choke on that last one here. The hole left in the Wis. budget was caused by the Recession/damages after 9/11,
    McCallum should have vetoed budget and started over after 9/11.
    Tommy raised school funding to 67% and Doyle lowered it to around 60%, not only living a big hole of 3.6 billion but also hole in local districts.
    TGT developed 75,000 jobs, lowered the crime rate dramatically, than the Lefites, running Milwaukee, have succeeded in raising the murders, shooting, car jacking, theft, toworse than Chicago. Then, heroin, car jajckings as they practice catch and release. They do build great trolleys and Arenas while the kids cannot read.
    We had the best roads in the country then Doyle took over and ruined, by taking all the hi way money and using it for big fat raises for public employees.
    Walker saved us from the fiscal mess.

  32. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Illinois sunk their ship long before Rauner took over, with a complete den legislature that refuses to fix their problems.
    Just like Calif who is 124.1 billion out of whack, according to their auditors. google that.
    Raunerr has held high but cannot do anything to save Il., even after 50% tax increase. We have had tax reductions, look at you property tax bills las 6 years.
    There are opinions but you are not allowed to have your own facts.

  33. Vincent Hanna says:

    I could not agree more WCD. No one is entitled to their own facts. So it’s a fact that blue Minnesota is in much better shape than red Wisconsin (9 is better than 32 right?). It’s a fact that blue states have healthier economies than red states. It’s a fact that Wisconsin not being as bad as Illinois means next to nothing when there are 48 other states in the nation. It’s a fact that you say unemployment numbers matter when the subject is Walker and doesn’t matter when the subject is Obama. Those are all facts.

  34. old baldy says:

    Well, it looks like wcd is all in favor of alternative facts as long as they are his. Everybody elses don’t count.

    I’ll stand by my previous comments. wcd can try to prove me wrong, but I’ll only accept facts that are actually facts, and all the words must be spelled properly.

  35. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Take Tommy’s record and Walkers record, compare them to Doyle, Earl and Barrett.
    Sorry Baldy you just cannot fix your stupid.

  36. Jason says:

    Vince, a little secret blue Minnesota is near purple. Let us hope Obamacare stays intact so we can finally see the ugly duckling become a swan.

  37. Fighting bob fan says:

    Yeah Baldy, take it from Bob. He’s been working out on his for years.

    Walker has a loser-like focus on jobs.

  38. Vincent Hanna says:

    Near purple? Just another way of saying it’s blue, which it is.

    If Trumpcare becomes reality millions of poor white people he pledged to help are going to get a cold hard reality check. Not that you care Jason.

  39. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    No one up? Walker/Tommy? ONE MILLION JOBS to the good!!!!

    Doyle/ Barett MINUS 130,000 jobs.

    Facts do not lie..

  40. fightingbobfan says:

    Bob — Unless you provide some links to these job numbers, we can consider it to be BS since everything you post is erroneous and loaded with typos.

    Further, you conveniently leave out the context. During the Doyle administration there was the massive Bush-made recession. Both Thompson and Walker were operating under fairly decent national economies.

  41. old baldy says:

    wcd is getting delusional yet again. Unless something happened in the last few seconds Barrett was never the governor of WI. So blaming him for anything in this discussion is truly ridiculous. But we expect nothing less.

    And where are those 250000 jobs walker promised in 4 years? He is 6+ years into the job and still 70000 short. So much for his success.

  42. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Are you kidding Tommy had a recession in 1989. and 9/11 in 2001. Stupid comments.
    It was not a Bush made recession it was caused by 9/11.
    Doyle/Barrett leadership brought us nothing but growth in crime, taxes on everything, deficits, disasters that elected Walker.
    Milwaukee except for downtown, East side is disaster.
    Doyle had loss of -130,000 jobs in his 8 years, Tommy +750,000 in 12, Walker +200,000 in 6. big difference.
    The Lefties in the country, states have been rejected cause your idiot ideas on gay marriage, toilets, Global warming min wages, all polices that stopped growth, did not interest the workers in this state/country .
    Under Obama did not get enough growth to keep SS and Medicare solvent. Already we see great pickup in jobs and consumer/business confidence, in last 60 days.

  43. EarlyWIsettlers says:

    It seems to be escaping notice that the door to child labor is being opened wider. The protections that prevented the child abuse of long hours at low pay have been removed. At the same time, education has been decimated at every level. I have already sent my fledglings out of the state, and recommend that all parents who wish their children to have a decent education do the same. Here’s hoping that they make it to a country that places the health of the citizens above excess corporate profits. (Companies can be quite profitable without compromising essential matters of health). I’ve helped them to set aim, it is up to them to fly. Over 150 years here in WI has been too long; it’s too broken to fix especially when all the good have gone. There is arsenic in the air and water. The streets are in horrid conditions and it deteriorates human spines daily. Lyme disease has gone unchecked with the controlled burns that other states use. There is nothing to recommend WI that cannot be found elsewhere. Why pay income tax here? Why start a business here? We no longer get good roads, decent schools, or park services, the Domes are gone, we pay more for the same insurance that is 50% cheaper in similar states, and there is not one single thing to recommend WI to offset the long list of downsides.

  44. EarlyWIsettlers_neverREPUBagain says:

    #ANTIworker=ANTIbusiness The unemployment rate is greatly underestimated. People fall off that list when they time out, and are no longer counted.

  45. old baldy says:


    Your nonsense is still just nonsense, even if you keep repeating it. The poor spelling and grammer don’t help a bit with your credibility.

    TGT was responsible for the deficit he passed on to Mc Callum. Doyle inherited that problem. Now walker is using that Thompson deficit as an excuse for his draconian cuts to programs that made WI a great place to live. And Milw is now an exporter of $$ to the rest of the state. You can look it up…

  46. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Tommy and Walker, this year over 750 million, always had surpluses in comparison to Doyle and Earl who were inept leaders, of our govt. That is why they had to leave.

  47. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Wisconsin has the highest number of people working in histor, that is why we have a 750 million dollar surplus. Compare this to the losers that run Milwaukee, and the Doyle regime.
    Keep whining, it is fun to listen..

  48. old baldy says:


    Did you see the latest LFB prediction that if walker budget is passed, we will end up with a 1.1 billion deficit? How’s that affecting your alternative reality??

  49. richk 1120 says:

    What happens to the surplus unemployment insurance, not state aid! after governor walkers waiting week ?

  50. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Old Baldy and all the other dumb dudes on this site.
    That is paper baloney, without nay new tax revenue, any cuts, changes. We have 750 million plus, that is real dummies. What also was real was the 3.6 billion dollar deficit that the Left gave to Walker when he came in. Left cannot run anything, look at Milwaukee.

  51. old baldy says:


    Per usual you are quick to call folks names, but slow with the facts. And if you look at the history of that big deficit it will take you right back to Tommy Thompson. But those facts you don’t want to hear.

    See, I can make a comment without calling anyone names, and do it with correct spelling and punctuation.

  52. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Poor Baldy, no one believes you notice who has lost all the time?

  53. old baldy says:


    And we all see you are unable to make cogent comment.

  54. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    I just love to hear the Lefties whine cause no one buys their Soros lefty programs

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