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Labor Leader Sees Causes For Optimism On Wisconsin Political Landscape

Peter Gorman/Flickr
Thousands of public employees gather at the Wisconsin state capitol in 2011 to protest Gov. Walker's bill that dismantles collective bargaining rights.

While Scott Walker was governor of Wisconsin for eight years, many people on both sides of the aisle believe his defining moment came in the earliest days of his tenure. That was the point at which a special legislative session resulted in the passage of Act 10, which greatly reduced the bargaining power of state employees.  

The Legislature went on to pass so-called Right to Work laws in 2015, which prohibit labor contracts requiring people to join a union if their job falls under certain categories.

So, as Tony Evers has taken office as governor, the relative power of labor unions in Wisconsin is in a different place than it was in 2010. Leadership at the union level is different, as well. The Wisconsin AFL-CIO is now under the direction of Stephanie Bloomingdale.

Bloomingdale says she’s optimistic about what the next four years might entail for organized labor in the state. “I’m not going to tell you that the last eight years have been easy, because they haven’t,” she says.  “But what we have done is regroup, and we know that union members are joining back into their unions as never before, we know that union popularity is on the rise, nationwide.

“We need to focus on what brings us together – and when we [do that], we are better off,” she says.