Is Big Labor Downplaying Expectations For Success In The Walker Recall Election?

By Collin Roth

The upcoming recall of Governor Walker has been the single galvanizing issue for the Left, particularly organized labor, in Wisconsin. Since the passage of Act 10 a year ago, Wisconsin has been ground zero for Big Labor’s high dollar revenge as millions of dollars were poured into a non-partisan Wisconsin Supreme Court race, six State Senate recalls in August 2011, and now the recall elections of the Governor, the Lt. Governor, and four more Republican State Senators in June 2012.

So with just seven weeks until a Democratic nominee faces Governor Walker, one would expect Big Labor to be booming out predictions of a Walker defeat and the “people powered movement” that recalled him. But something else is starting to appear. Big Labor is downplaying expectations for success in the recall election.

In an article published in Politico over the weekend, national labor leaders from the SEIU and AFSCME opined on what is expected to be a nasty primary fight between the hand-picked labor candidate Kathleen Falk and the preferred Democratic establishment candidate Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. And instead of the usual campaign rhetoric of predicting victory, Big Labor resorted to a more cautious tone implying that victory had already been won regardless of who won the recall election.

According to Lee Saunders, Secretary Treasurer for AFSCME:

“Recalling Walker is very important, but there’s already been a huge moral and psychological victory that doesn’t depend solely on recalling Walker. Labor is united and fighting for an economy (and a country) that works for and supports the 99 percent.”

And Andy Stern, the former president of the SEIU and frequent guest of the White House explained that the recall is “symbolic” and a victory over Walker is perhaps not even the real aim of the labor fight:

[Andy] Stern said, and pretty much all sides of this labor debate agree, that defeating Walker in an epic symbolic contest is not the be-all, end-all for labor in Wisconsin — with a year’s worth of sprawling protests and state legislative battles, Walker’s opponents have already managed to sap his power.

It is interesting to note that labor leaders are perhaps already downplaying national expectations for a victory over Governor Walker in the recall election. It is unclear whether this pessimism hinges on what seems to be the underdog role of their hand-picked candidate Kathleen Falk, the uptick in Walker’s approval ratings over the last few months, or perhaps even the state of Big Labor’s money coffers and how much they might be willing to spend in a Wisconsin recall fight when Big Labor will be trying to protect President Obama in 2012.

Nevertheless, the cautious message coming from the leaders of organized labor is perhaps the beginning of an effort to blunt the embarrassment if Walker wins the recall election on June 5.

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