Heading into Tuesday's race, labor groups, progressives and other recall supporters readily conceded that they were being heavily outspent by Republicans and their supporters via outside spending. Barrett personally expressed dismay at being outspent 7 to 1, and his supporters agreed.
"We cannot compete with the Koch brothers and all of Walker's millionaire and billionaire megalomaniac friends who want to take control of the government," Chris Fleming, media director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) told Yahoo News Tuesday.
Walker personally raised about $30 million, significantly more than the $4 million raised by Barrett. But outside spending, for which there are no concrete figures available, pushed Walker even further ahead in the fundraising race. One of his major supporters was Americans for Prosperity, the non-profit super PAC created by the Koch brothers.
But with super PACs remaining in place for the 2012 election, labor groups, unions and others were asked Wednesday exactly how they plan to compete against outside GOP spending for the remainder of this cycle.
Trumka suggested the recall as a unique situation that will not be replicated elsewhere. When asked if the president's decision not to campaign for Barrett could have changed the result, Trumka demurred. "There's probably some mixed feelings" regarding the level of the president's involvement, he said, but "if he'd been involved I don't know if there'd be any difference or not."
This is the second major electoral loss for big labor in recent years, piggybacking on labor's failed takedown of Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln in 2010. Labor did win the repeal of an anti-public employee union measure in Ohio, Issue 2, in 2011, but union strength is still believed to be on the decline.
Union membership in 2011 fell to a record low for the second straight year, according to the Department of Labor.