Walker pens New York Times op-ed urging government to support workers

    Scott Walker, sideways smile
    Then-Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo by Gage Skidmore /Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0

    On Wednesday, former Gov. Scott Walker had an opinion piece published  in the New York Times, which largely repeated messages that Wisconsin legislators made in a letter to President Donald Trump and elsewhere. In brief, he stated that the federal government cannot afford to waste money on failing state governments, taking a few jabs specifically at Illinois.

    Scott Walker up close
    Then-Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin speaking at the 2017 CPAC. Photo by Gage Skidmore /Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0

    His piece had a headline that certainly turned heads (and churned up rebuttals) from Wisconsinites who remember Act 10. The headline read:  “Don’t Bail Out the States:

    Instead of propping up failed state bureaucracies, the federal government should support American workers.”

    Walker wrote at length about the success of his “reforms,” with no acknowledgement that they were built on cutting workers’ pay, benefits and taking away their rights by crushing unions. 

    And despite the pro-worker stance he claimed, he took a shot at his former employees — state workers — right away in the second paragraph, writing, “While unprecedented numbers of people are seeking unemployment compensation, many state government employees are still receiving paychecks as they sit idle at home.”

    Gov. Tony Evers at media briefing 5/21/20
    Gov. Tony Evers at media briefing 5/21/20

    Evers was asked about the column on Thursday and whether he agreed with Walker’s premise that the federal government should not bail out states — particularly during a week when Evers was applying federal funding from the CARES Act to addressing obstacles faced by farmers, small businesses, food pantries, child-care providers, renters and long-term care facilities, Evers replied: “I didn’t have the pleasure of reading it but I’ll have to check it out.”

    Evers instead described the “helpful” role federal funding was playing in Wisconsin.

    “I will say, the state of Wisconsin and other states — and we talk regularly with the Midwest states — obviously need more resources. Certainly, we’re struggling as a state financially. And we also struggle in making sure that our long-term care facilities, our hospitals and others have the ability to survive, given the pandemic. So I think the federal government needs to continue to consider stepping up.”

    Evers described the choice between protecting workers and helping states survive the pandemic as a false choice, asserting that state leadership can walk and chew gum at the same time.

    “It’s also critically important that the workers that work in these industries that have had significant outbreaks of COVID-19 — they deserve protection, too. And I know that it’s important that our food chain not get disrupted. But I can’t believe in this day and age that we are in a position where you can’t do both. … Our workers need protection. They need the services they should get when they’re ill, and they need the equipment they need to stay safe as well.”

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    While Evers took no shots at Walker, “The Political Environment” blogger Jim Rowen called out the irony in his column responding to the op-ed. 

    “The New York Times could not have picked a more appropriate politician to put his name on an op-ed about ‘failed state bureaucracies’ than Scott Walker” began Rowen. “Set aside — but never forget — his op-ed’s camouflaged shilling for GOP-aligned, right-wing, states-rights groups which have hired him that he’s wrapped in a preposterous, pretend bond for workers … and remember that Wisconsin is where Walker froze the state’s mandated hourly minimum wage at the rock-bottom rate of the entirely of his eight-year reign at $7.25.”

    Rowen cited a number of other Walker actions he calls anti worker, including Act 10, demoralizing teachers and public employees, cuts to private workers’ pay with the right-to-work law and a follow-up reduction to prevailing union wages, as well as “having mortgaged the state budget for (to date) non-existent high-tech manufacturing jobs pledged by the Taiwanese firm Foxconn.”

    Concluded Rowen: “So let Walker’s record of failure by the bureaucracies he directed speak for themselves.”


    Melanie Conklin
    Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.