Suffering a steep decline in popularity, according to recent polling, presidential candidate Scott Walker highlighted his anti-union credentials Monday, releasing an aggressive roadmap for taking his union-busting tactics to the federal level.
In advance of the second Republican debate this week, the Walker campaign released a white paper, called "Power to the People," emphasizing his record as Wisconsin governor, in which he curtailed collective-bargaining rights in dramatic showdowns with the state's unionized government employees.
Among the policies Walker outlined in the document are: an end to public sector unions, an extension of so-called right-to-work legislation nationwide, which would reduce unions' abilities to collect dues from all members of unionized workplaces, and the elimination of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
In an advance excerpt of remarks to be made in a Las Vegas speech Monday, Walker said his plan would combat "big-government union bosses," while empowering workers and growing the economy. Some of the reforms require Congressional action or changes to federal regulations, while others could be implemented unilaterally via presidential executive order.
The NLRB, which oversees union elections and charges of labor-law violations, recently passed a series of rulings to smooth and speed the unionization process, as well as expand employers' responsibilities towards contracted workers. The board's members are currently mainly Democratic political appointees, and many recent decisions have come down in favor of the union movement.
Walker's plan would shift the NLRB's powers to the federal court system and the National Mediation Board (NMB), an agency that moderates railroad and airline labor relations, as well as the federal court system.
Eric Hauser, the communications director of the AFL-CIO federation of unions, called Walker a "one-trick pony" in a statement following the white paper's release. Previously, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called Walker a "national disgrace," after the governor announced his candidacy for the presidency.
As part of his labor plan, Walker would also endorse and seek the passage of the Employee Rights Act, according to excerpts of his speech, calling it "pro-freedom and pro-worker."
The act would introduce restrictions on the use of union member dues, require union re-certification once a workforce turns over by 50%, and require secret ballot union elections.
Richard Berman, Executive Director of the business-backed lobbying group Center for Union Facts, told BuzzFeed News that the proposed act is "the most far-reaching piece of labor legislation in the last fifty years," saying it would "avoid tension between management and labor in the legislative area and give additional rights to employees."
"Were that to be passed, it would totally energize the employee community in a way that… I shouldn't say energize," said Berman. "It would totally relieve the employee community from union intimidation over the years."