In 1919, after Boston police went on strike to protest the city's refusal to recognize their new union, Gov. Calvin Coolidge ordered the National Guard into the streets.
Sam Gompers, the legendary father of American labor, wrote the governor that the Boston police had been denied their rights.
Coolidge's terse reply put him in our history books:
"Your assertion that the Commissioner was wrong cannot justify the wrong of leaving the city unguarded. ... There is no right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anywhere, any time."
Ronald Reagan's firing of the striking air traffic controllers, whose union had been among the few to endorse him, marked him as a leader willing to act against a powerful union if the public interest commands it.
Gov. Scott Walker is now in that tradition. He has just routed a recall campaign that began with state senators disgracefully fleeing to Illinois rather than provide a quorum and mobs occupying his capitol.
Walter's victory is a fire bell in the night for the public-sector unions. It reflects a rising realization among all Western peoples that to continue accommodating the demands of government unions is to risk our survival as free and prosperous nations.
The Badger State rout of Big Labor was total.
The public-employee unions first capitulated to the governor's demand that they contribute more to their pensions and health care benefits. But they drew the line at Walker's determination to curtail collective bargaining and to cease deducting union dues from the paychecks of state workers.
Collect your dues yourself, the governor was telling the unions.
With their union dues no longer taken out of their paychecks, tens of thousands of Wisconsin public employees refused to pony up those dues and quit their union, instead. What does this tell us?
Many union members do not believe they get their money's worth from unions that claim to represent them, and would prefer to get out of the union and keep the dues money themselves.
This desertion by their members represents a massive vote of no confidence in unions like the America Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of Teachers. AFSCME in Wisconsin lost 34,000 of its 62,000 members last year alone.
From the Wisconsin experience, if right-to-work laws were enacted in every state, giving employees freedom to join or leave a union, public-employee unions would be abandoned, reduced to shadows of what they are today. What does it say about a union if its members would prefer not to belong, if they were free to leave?