Presidential candidate Scott Walker wants to eliminate federal unions and impose right-to-work laws on the whole country. He plans to announce his proposals Monday afternoon at a town hall meeting in Las Vegas.
"Our plan calls for national Right to Work," Walker is expected to say, according to excerpts released by his campaign. "Specifically, we set a presumption that every employee in America - public and private sector - has the freedom to choose whether they want to be in a labor union or not."
Walker would also shut down the NLRB, the federal agency that oversees unfair labor practices. If he were to succeed, organized labor would be a much less powerful force in the U.S.
"This will not be easy," Walker said in a statement to The Associated Press. "Many - including the union bosses and the politicians they puppet - have long benefited from Washington rules that put the needs of special interests before needs of middle-class families."
While some of Walker's proposals would affect private-sector unions, many specifically target unions for workers at all levels of government.
"Our plan will eliminate the big government unions entirely and put the American people back in charge of their government," Walker plans to say later Monday, according to speech excerpts. "Federal employees should work for the taxpayers - not the other way around.
Some of his ideas could be enacted through the president's executive powers, while others would require an act of Congress or changes in federal regulations. The goal, Walker said, is "to achieve fairness and opportunity for American workers."
Experts were taken aback by the scope of Walker's proposals, which seek to undo decades of law and would gut the landmark National Relations Labor Act - adopted in 1935 and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the height of the Great Depression.
"I've never seen anything like this," said Ann Hodges, a professor at the University of Richmond who has studied labor law for more than 40 years. "This will take the breath away from anyone who's worked in labor relations for any length of time. ... It's pretty draconian."
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) characterized Walker's plan as a "desperate and disgusting" attempt "to revive his flailing campaign on the backs of middle-class workers and families. By seeking to dismantle unions - the backbone of the middle class that gave us weekends, paid vacations, and child labor laws - Scott Walker is again placing his political ambitions and the demands of his billionaire benefactors ahead of middle class Americans."
Walker's plan also calls for prohibiting automatic withdrawal of union dues to be used for political purposes and forbidding union organizers to access employees' personal information, such as their phone numbers.
Walker rose to national prominence in 2011, when just six weeks after taking office as governor, he proposed effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers in Wisconsin. Tens of thousands protested, but Walker still succeeded in pushing the changes through the state legislature - even after Democratic lawmakers fled the state in an unsuccessful effort to thwart his plans.
Democrats responded by forcing Walker into a recall election in 2012, which he won - making him the first governor in U.S. history to do so. He went on to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state earlier this year. Under right-to-work laws, workers can't be required to pay union dues as a condition of employment.
His decision to focus on fighting unions at the national level comes as Walker seeks to gain momentum for a presidential campaign that has fallen behind following billionaire businessman Donald Trump's rise to the top of early opinion polls. And some of Walker's comments drew derision - such as when he said earlier this month that he's not a career politician, even though he's been in office since he was 25 years old.
Walker was all the buzz in Iowa a couple months ago, said attorney Mike Mahaffey, a past state chairman of the Iowa Republican Party. "He does not come up as much as he did two months ago," Mahaffey said. "And that's a problem."
Walker, 47, says he intends to be more aggressive in this week's second GOP debate, while insisting he isn't concerned about his standing in the race.
"None of this intimidates us," Walker said at a recent campaign appearance. "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. I'm the only one on that stage that fits the bill."
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