As Americans watch Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stand firm against union demands, we should pause to remember two former governors who also resisted riotous protestors: Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan. As Massachusetts governor in 1919, Calvin Coolidge resisted the unionization of police officers. As soon as police officers began protesting in the streets, Coolidge responded by reminding the people that “there is no right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anytime, anywhere.” Coolidge’s resolute stance against burgeoning police unions resonated with the people of Massachusetts, and soon many citizens in other states looked to Coolidge as a national leader.
In a similar instance, President Ronald Reagan, who had previously served as governor of California, clamped down on union riots in August 1981. Throughout his career Reagan understood that sometimes compromise is necessary, but not in the case of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, who demanded a 20 to 50 percent salary increase with a simultaneous cut in work hours. When the strikers refused to back down, even after Reagan explained that anyone who refused to return to work would be fired, he followed through and fired 11,345 controllers and barred them from federal employment. The actions of both of these governors have been since praised as firm, courageous examples of proper authority.
Governor Walker has become a beacon of conservative leadership as he follows these great men. A man of power may settle for convenient solutions, but a man of integrity will remain steadfast to his principles amidst a sea of discontent.
Brittany Baldwin is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm