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Former union leader Andy Stern reacts to Walker victory

Janitors and supporters from Service Employees International Union hold a rally September 28, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.

Jeremy Hobson: Wisconsin's republican governor Scott Walker will keep his job after winning yesterday's recall election. That win has political implications, but it also has implications for organized labor. Unions led the recall effort after Walker trimmed their power in the state.

Andy Stern is the former head of the Service Employees International Union, and he joins us now. Good morning.

Andy Stern: Good morning.

Hobson: First of all, as a former leader of the labor movement, what’s your reaction to this recall election?

Stern: Well, I think it’s fair to say that I’m disappointed. I think what Scott Walker did sort of crossed the line of Wisconsin values but it’s time to move on.

Hobson: What do you make of the fact thought that, according to the exit polls, even people who live in union households were evenly split in this recall election between Walker and his opponent, Barrett?

Stern: I think we always have to understand that union households means spouses, children and it’s a much broader category than simply union members. But it certainly means that there was more education work that needed to be done or a sense that some of the workers in the private sector feel like some of the issues here weren’t really things they supported. But I also think recall elections are very different. A lot of people don’t believe to recall anybody in the mid-term and so I think there’s a special consideration here.

Hobson: Well let me ask you this though—the labor movement is a lot smaller in this country right now than it was decades ago and this recall election seems to indicate that this trend continues.

Stern: Yeah I think until both the labor movement modernizes itself and American decides that it really wants to find a way for workers to share in success and not have this inequality you know, I think the labor movement is unfortunately on the cutting edge of where the action is but in the end, this is really going to be bad for American workers.

Hobson: Andy Stern is the former president of the Service Employees International Union. He is now a senior fellow with the Richman Center at Columbia University. Thanks so much.

Stern: Thank you.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.
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