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The decimation of the political Left under former President Barack Obama has been well-documented. Since he was first elected in 2008, the Democratic Party has lost more than 1,000 legislative seats, with more than 900 of those at the state level. Over that time, conservatives have scored countless legislative victories in the states, but perhaps no movement has seen greater success than labor reform.

It started in 2011 when Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., and the state legislature enacted Act 10, the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, in the face of 100,000 angry protesters at the state capitol. That legislation reformed collective bargaining, turned a $3.6 billion budget deficit into a surplus, and made Wisconsin the first state to require government unions to stand for re-election annually in order to remain accountable to workers.

Though the Left promised revenge and Walker became organized labor’s national enemy number one, the reformers were re-elected over and over again and even expanded their legislative majorities, kicking off a wave that saw right-to-work legislation passed and signed in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and West Virginia by early 2016. Almost without fail, voters in these states rewarded lawmakers who took on powerful special interest unions.

Even though more states have passed right-to-work laws in the past five years than in the previous 50 years, 2017 is shaping up to be even bigger and better.

On Thursday, both chambers of the Iowa state legislature passed sweeping government union collective bargaining reforms that will add badly-needed accountability for unions and protections for taxpayers. The reforms limit the scope of negotiations to base wages only in order to prevent unreasonable demands, enact paycheck protection requiring unions to receive written consent before deducting dues from worker paychecks, and make Iowa the second state (after Wisconsin) to require annual union re-certification elections.

Iowa’s reforms were preceded by Kentucky and Missouri passing legislation to become the 27th and 28th right-to-work states in January, giving workers the freedom to choose whether or not to join and pay dues to a union. The last time two states passed right-to-work in the same year was 1954. Kentucky was able to do so because Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in November for the first time in 95 years, while Missouri replaced term-limited Democratic Governor Jay Nixon (who vetoed right-to-work in 2015) with conservative reformer Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican.

In addition to right-to-work, Kentucky also enacted paycheck protection legislation and repealed its prevailing wage law that inflated the cost of public construction projects by as much as 51 percent in some school districts.

Missouri followed suit after right-to-work with the introduction of the Government Union Reform Act. Similar to Wisconsin’s Act 10 and Iowa’s collective bargaining reforms, the Missouri bill would require government unions to stand for re-certification. It would also end “release time” in which government employees conduct union work on taxpayer-funded time, and establish the right to secret ballots in unionization elections. The Missouri House has also passed paycheck protection legislation and is considering a bill to repeal the state’s prevailing wage.

Better yet, labor reform has hope beyond state legislatures, too.

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While federal legislation like the Employee Rights Act and the National Right to Work Act are unlikely to clear the Senate’s 60-vote threshold this year, a new legal challenge has been filed that could potentially create right-to-work protection for every public employee in the country.

Last year, California teacher Rebecca Friedrichs’ case to be freed from government union collective bargaining fees because they are inherently political – e.g. funding negotiations over taxpayer-funded benefits like teacher pay and pensions – reached the United States Supreme Court, and was slated for victory until Justice Antonin Scalia passed away. Now, with the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to replace Scalia, an identical case filed recently by eight teachers in California could similarly provide worker freedom to all public employees.

Voters have repeatedly rejected special interest politics over the past eight years, and this year courageous lawmakers and activists are taking steps to return power from the most entrenched special interest in politics, government unions, back to workers and taxpayers in states across the country. Regardless of one’s own union status, that is a win for all.

Akash Chougule (@AkashJC) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is the director of policy at Americans for Prosperity.

If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.

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