Republican presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker wants to take his Wisconsin union-busting tactics national, in proposals that one expert called "draconian."
Falling behind in polls ahead of this week’s second Republican presidential debate, the governor of Wisconsin is expanding on the changes he would make to national labor organizing laws, if elected president.
In a speech in Las Vegas Monday, Gov. Walker is expected to propose eliminating unions for federal government employees, scrapping the federal agency that oversees unfair labor practices, and make it more difficult for unions to organize and be politically active.
The goal, Walker in a statement to The Associated Press, is "to achieve fairness and opportunity for American workers."
"This will not be easy, " he added in the statement. "Many – including union bosses and the politicians they puppet – have long benefited from Washington rules that put the needs of special interests before the needs of middle-class families."
While some of the proposals could be enacted through presidential executive order, others would require an act of Congress or changes in federal regulations.
Labor law experts said that Walker’s proposals, if successful, would overhaul decades of organized labor reform in America.
Ann Hodges, a professor at the University of Richmond who has studied labor law for over 40 years, told the Associated Press, "I’ve never seen anything like this."
"This will take the breath away from anyone who’s worked in labor relations for any length of time," she said. "It’s pretty draconian."
Lee Adler, a labor law expert at Cornell University, said Walker’s plans would make it more difficult for working class people to join the middle class. "Mr. Walker could only be making these types of proposals to satisfy his most backward-looking, wealthy contributors," he added.
Taking on unions has proved to be a winning formula for Walker in the past, and as he lags in the polls of a crowded Republican field he will be hoping an expansion of the laws that made him famous nationwide will make him a national contender for president.
Walker rose to prominence in 2011 when, just six weeks into his term as governor, he proposed a law to strictly limit the collective bargaining rights of most public workers in Wisconsin. Despite loud protests in the state capital, often numbering in the tens of thousands, the state legislature passed the law.
After surviving a recall election in 2012 – the first governor in US history to do so – he pushed even further, enacting right-to-work laws in March that lift the requirements of workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.
"It sends a powerful message across the country and around the world," he said at the time.
The enactment of the right-to-work laws represented the height of Walker’s national popularity, however.
The Wisconsin governor emerged as a darling of the Republican Party. Earlier this year, Walker was leading multiple national polls. The headline on a National Journal article in February declared: "Not since George W. Bush in 2000 has a GOP presidential candidate draw support across so many divides."
But then Donald Trump happened. The flamboyant and unapologetic real estate billionaire with no political experience has hijacked the Republican presidential campaign. One candidate, Rick Perry, has already thrown in the towel, and with the second debate looming this week, Walker has said he wants to get more aggressive.
"I think if people are looking for someone who is truly going to shake things up and wreak havoc on Washington, they want someone who’s got real solutions and someone who is truly tested," he said at a recent campaign appearance. "I’m the only one on that [debate] stage that fits the bill."
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.