NYT: Organized Labor Hopes Attacks by Some States Help Nurture Comeback

March 5, 2011- When Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, began his crusade against collective bargaining by public employees, his state’s unions seemed woefully outmatched. But Wisconsin’s beleaguered labor movement woke up and mobilized, through e-mail blasts, phone trees and Facebook, getting tens of thousands of supporters to rally in Madison against the legislation and surprising itself that it could muster such a show of force so quickly.

 For now, the two sides are at a stalemate, with protesters still swarming the Capitol and Democratic senators hiding in Illinois to deny the Republican majority the quorum needed to pass Mr. Walker’s bill. Meanwhile, governors in other states, most notably New Jersey and Ohio, have gone on the offensive against labor, deriding teachers’ unions, tenure and generous pensions.

Organized labor has been on a long decline, but the recent attacks against it in Wisconsin and elsewhere have had a surprising result — they have energized the nation’s unions. Instead of just playing defense to protect benefits and bargaining rights, labor leaders are plotting some offense, with several saying Mr. Walker may have unwittingly nurtured a comeback by unions.

As the Wisconsin showdown has unfolded, several recent national opinion polls have shown strong public backing for unions. And labor leaders say public awareness, especially among younger people, of what unions do has clearly increased.


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