Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Policy Feedback as Political Weapon: Conservative Advocacy and the Demobilization of the Public Sector Labor Movement

  • Alexander Hertel-Fernandez
Abstract

Scholars have shown that once in place policies can foster greater political participation. Indeed, politicians often deliberately design policies to shore up political support among their allies. But can political actors engineer the reverse effect, crafting policies that demobilize their rivals? Drawing on the example of conservative cross-state advocacy against public sector unions, I describe the strategy of policy feedback as political weapon, or when actors design policies to politically weaken their opponents. I then document that the passage of conservative network-backed legislation led to large and enduring declines in public sector union density and revenue. I further show that by curbing the power of public unions, the passage of conservative network-backed bills dampened the political participation of public sector employees. My findings emphasize the importance of considering how actors use policy to demobilize political opponents and explain why public unions are now on the defensive in state politics.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Policy Feedback as Political Weapon: Conservative Advocacy and the Demobilization of the Public Sector Labor Movement
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Policy Feedback as Political Weapon: Conservative Advocacy and the Demobilization of the Public Sector Labor Movement
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Policy Feedback as Political Weapon: Conservative Advocacy and the Demobilization of the Public Sector Labor Movement
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
References
Hide All
Ahlquist, John. 2012. “Public Sector Unions Need the Private Sector or Why the Wisconsin Protests Were Not Labor’s Lazarus Moment.” The Forum 10(1). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/1540-8884.1001_int.
Ahlquist, John, Clayton, Amanda B., and Levi, Margaret. 2014. “Provoking Preferences: Unionization, Trade Policy, and the ILWU Puzzle.” International Organization 68(1): 3375.
ALEC. 1998. “Jeffersonian Principles in Action! 25th Anniversary Annual Meeting.” University of California, San Francisco: Legacy Tobacco Archives. Document ID: hjhh0040.
Anzia, Sarah F. 2013. Timing and Turnout. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Anzia, Sarah F. and Moe, Terry M.. 2015. “Public Sector Unions and the Costs of Government.” Journal of Politics 77(1): 114–27.
Anzia, Sarah F. and Moe, Terry M.. 2016. “Do Politicians Use Policy to Make Politics? The Case of Public-Sector Labor Laws.” American Political Science Review 110(4): 763–77.
Bartels, Larry M. 2008. Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Berman, Ari. 2015. Give Us The Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Brady, David, Baker, Regina S., and Finnigan, Ryan. 2013. “When Unionization Disappears: State-Level Unionization and Working Poverty in the United States.” American Sociological Review 78(5): 872–96.
Bump, Philip. 2014. “Americans for Prosperity May Be America’s Third-Biggest Political Party.” Washington Post, June 19.
Campbell, Andrea Louise. 2003. How Policies Make Citizens: Senior Political Activism and the American Welfare State. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Conservative Digest. 1985. “ALEC—The Most Dangerously Effective Organization.” University of California, Berkeley Bancroft Library: People for the American Way Collection, Carton 6, Folder 17.
Coppock, Alexander and Green, Donald P.. 2016. “Is Voting Habit Forming? New Evidence from Experiments and Regression Discontinuities.” American Journal of Political Science 60(4): 1044–62.
Dark, Taylor. 1999. The Unions and The Democrats: An Enduring Alliance. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Davey, Monica. 2016. “With Fewer Members, a Diminished Political Role for Wisconsin Unions.” New York Times, February 27.
DeGrow, Benjamin. 2011. “Nine Key Changes at the Bargaining Table: A Policy Handbook for Colorado School Board Reform Leaders.” Golden, CO: The Independence Institute.
DiSalvo, Daniel. 2015. Government against Itself: Public Union Power and Its Consequences. New York: Oxford University Press.
Dixon, Marc and Martin, Andrew W.. 2012. “We Can’t Win This on Our Own: Unions, Firms, and Mobilization of External Allies in Labor Disputes.” American Sociological Review 77(6): 946–69.
Farber, Henry S. 2005. “Union Membership in the United States: The Divergence between the Public and Private Sectors.” Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section Working Paper #503. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University.
Flavin, Patrick. 2016. “Labor Union Strength and the Equality of Political Representation.” British Journal of Political Science. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007123416000302.
Flavin, Patrick and Hartney, Michael T.. 2015. “When Government Subsidizes Its Own: Collective Bargaining Laws as Agents of Political Mobilization.” American Journal of Political Science 59(4): 896911.
Fraley, Brian. 2010. “The Time is Now to Reform Labor Laws Which Threaten Our State’s Future.” A MacIver Institute Perspective. Madison, WI: John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy.
Freeman, Richard B. and Han, Eunice. 2012. “The War against Public Sector Collective Bargaining in the US.” Journal of Industrial Relations 54(3): 386408.
Freeman, Richard B. and Ichniowski, Casey, eds. 1988. When Public Sector Workers Unionize. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Freeman, Richard B. and Medoff, James L.. 1984. What Do Unions Do? New York: Basic Books.
Frymer, Paul. 2010. “Labor and American Politics.” Perspectives on Politics 8(2): 609–16.
Gilens, Martin. 2012. Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Gray, Virginia and Lowery, David. 1996. The Population Ecology of Interest Representation: Lobbying Communities in the American States. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Greenhouse, Steven. 2014. “Wisconsin’s Legacy for Unions.” New York Times, Feburary 22.
Hacker, Jacob S. 2002. The Divided Welfare State. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Hacker, Jacob S. and Pierson, Paul. 2010. Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer–and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Hacker, Jacob S. and Pierson, Paul. 2014. “After the ‘Master Theory’: Downs, Schattschneider, and the Rebirth of Policy-Focused Analysis.” Perspectives on Politics 12(3): 643–62.
Han, Hahrie. 2014. How Organizations Develop Activists: Civic Associations and Leadership in the 21st Century. New York: Oxford University Press.
Hertel-Fernandez, Alexander. 2016. “Explaining Durable Business Coalitions in U.S. Politics.” Studies in American Political Development 30(1): 118.
Hertel-Fernandez, Alexander and Skocpol, Theda. 2016. “How the Right Trounced Liberals in the States.” Democracy: A Journal of Ideas Winter 2016 (39). Available at https://democracyjournal.org/magazine/39/how-the-right-trounced-liberals-in-the-states/
Hertel-Fernandez, Alexander, Skocpol, Theda, and Lynch, Daniel. 2016. “Business Associations, Conservative Networks, and the Ongoing Republican War over Medicaid Expansion.” Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 41(2): 239–86.
Highton, Benjamin. 2017. “Voter Identification Laws and Turnout in the United States.” Annual Review of Political Science 20: 149–67.
Hough, Michael. 2011. “Public Employee Unions: Pushing Government to Bankruptcy.” Inside ALEC, January, 10.
Hoxby, Caroline Minter. 1996. “How Teachers’ Unions Affect Education Production.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 111(3): 671718.
Kahneman, Daniel, Knetsch, Jack L., and Thaler, Richard H.. 1991. “Anomalies: The Endowment Effect, Loss Aversion, and Status Quo Bias.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 5(1): 193206.
Kelly, Nathan J. and Witko, Christopher. 2012. “Federalism and American Inequality.” Journal of Politics 74(2): 414–26.
Kim, Sung Eun and Margalit, Yotam. 2017. “Informed Preferences? The Impact of Unions on Workers’ Policy Views.” American Journal of Political Science 61(3): 728–43.
Leighley, Jan E. and Nagler, Jonathan. 2007. “Unions, Voter Turnout, and Class Bias in the U.S. Electorate, 1964–2004.” Journal of Politics 69(2): 430–41.
Lerman, Amy E. and Weaver, Vesla M.. 2014. Arresting Citizenship. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Levi, Margaret. 2003. “Organizing Power: The Prospects for an American Labor Movement.” Perspectives on Politics 1(1): 4568.
Lowi, Theodore. 1964. “American Business, Public Policy, Case-Studies, and Political Theory.” World Politics 16(4): 677715.
McCartin, Joseph A. 2008. “Turnabout Years: Public Sector Unionism and the Fiscal Crisis.” In Righward Bound: Making America Conservative in the 1970s, ed. Schulman, B. J. and Zelizer, J. E.. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Mettler, Suzanne. 1998. Dividing Citizens: Gender and Federalism in New Deal Public Policy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Mettler, Suzanne and Soss, Joe. 2004. “The Consequences of Public Policy for Democratic Citizenship: Bridging Policy Studies and Mass Politics.” Perspectives on Politics 2(1): 5573.
Moe, Terry. 2011. Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America’s Public Schools. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
Office of the Governor. 2011. “Governor Walker Introduces Budget Repair.” Press release, February 11. Madison: Office of the Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Olson, Mancur. 1965. The Logic of Collective Action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Patashnik, Eric. 2008. Reforms at Risk: What Happens after Major Policy Changes are Enacted. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Patashnik, Eric and Zelizer, Julian E.. 2013. “The Struggle to Remake Politics: Liberal Reform and the Limits of Policy Feedback in the Contemporary American State.” Perspectives on Politics 11(4): 1071–87.
Pierson, Paul. 1993. “Review: When Effect Becomes Cause: Policy Feedback and Political Change.” World Politics 45(4): 595628.
Pierson, Paul. 2015. “Power and Path Dependence.” In Advances in Comparative-Historical Analysis, ed. Mahoney, J. and Thelen, K.. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Prior, Markus. 2010. “You’ve Either Got It or You Don’t? The Stability of Political Interest over the Life Cycle.” Journal of Politics 72(3): 747–66.
Rosenfeld, Jake. 2014. What Unions No Longer Do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Schattschneider, E. E. 1935. Politics, Pressures and the Tariff. New York: Prentice Hall.
Schlozman, Daniel. 2015. When Movements Anchor Parties. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Schlozman, Kay Lehman, Verba, Sidney, and Brady, Henry E.. 2012. The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Skocpol, Theda. 1992. Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.
Skocpol, Theda. 2003. Diminished Democracy: From Membership to Management in American Civic Life. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Skocpol, Theda and Hertel-Fernandez, Alexander. 2016. “The Koch Network and Republican Party Extremism.” Perspectives on Politics 14(3): 681–99.
Soss, Joe. 1999. “Lessons of Welfare: Policy Design, Political Learning, and Political Action.” American Political Science Review 93(2): 363–80.
Soss, Joe and Schram, Sanford F.. 2007. “A Public Transformed? Welfare Reform as Policy Feedback.” American Political Science Review 101(1): 111–27.
Stan, Adele M. 2011. “How Workers Learned to Fear Unions in Wisconsin.” AlterNet/The Investigative Fund at The Nation, June 2.
Verba, Sidney, Lehman Schlozman, Kay, and Brady, Henry E.. 1995. Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Walker, Alexis N. 2014. “Labor’s Enduring Divide: The Distinct Path of Public Sector Unions in the United States.” Studies in American Political Development 28(2): 175200.
Wilmers, Nathan. 2017. “Labor Unions as Activist Organizations: A Union Power Approach to Estimating Union Wage Effects.” Social Forces 95(4): 1451–77.
Wines, Michael. 2016. “Some Republicans Acknowledge Leveraging Voter ID Laws for Political Gain.” New York Times, September 16.
Woodruff, Betsy. 2015. “Inside Scott Walker’s Secret Brain Trust.” The Daily Beast, April 16.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Perspectives on Politics
  • ISSN: 1537-5927
  • EISSN: 1541-0986
  • URL: /core/journals/perspectives-on-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×
Type Description Title
UNKNOWN
Supplementary materials

Hertel-Fernandez Dataset
Dataset

 Unknown
WORD
Supplementary materials

Hertel-Fernandez supplementary material
Hertel-Fernandez supplementary material 1

 Word (150 KB)
150 KB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed