The “Walker Effect”: Wisconsin PEU membership cratering?

Posted by: Phineas on April 8, 2013 at 1:01 pm

**Posted by Phineas

Or maybe it’s the predictable result of restoring liberty to the people and not using the force of law to extort money from them for the benefit of union bosses (1). Regardless, the reforms Governor Walker instituted and then defended against thug tactics in Wisconsin have sent the membership numbers of at least one public employee union, AFSCME, into a tailspin:

According a Labor Department filing made last week, membership at Wisconsin’s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 40 — one of AFSCME’s four branches in the state — has gone from the 31,730 it reported in 2011, to 29,777 in 2012, to just 20,488 now. That’s a drop of more than 11,000 — about a third — in just two years. The council represents city and county employees outside of Milwaukee County and child care workers across Wisconsin.

Labor Department filings also show that Wisconsin’s AFSCME Council 48, which represents city and county workers in Milwaukee County, went from 9,043 members in 2011, to 6,046 in 2012, to just 3,498 now.


They show why the state worker unions and their liberal allies fought such a protracted, bitter battle in 2011 over Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s changes to the state’s labor laws. Under the old laws, state employees were obligated to pay dues to a union even if that worker didn’t want to belong to a union. Walker changed that to allow state workers to opt out of paying those dues. He also required unions to submit to an annual re-certification vote. Without those requirements, the unions have found it much harder to retain members.

And I’d say this is a good thing for Wisconsin, as early results from the reforms have shown. As public employee unions have grown (Disclosure: I pay dues to one — against my will), they’ve come to treat the taxpayers as cash-cows, milking them for ever-higher salaries and benefits (often far better than for comparable positions in the private sector), whether justified or even healthy for the state. They’ve fought even the mildest reforms tooth-and-claw, as witnessed during the protests and occupation of the Wisconsin state capitol in 2011. In effect, they were acting as overlords demanding tribute from a subject people and becoming enraged when the people said “no more.”

If these membership numbers are any indication, a large and probably growing swath of Wisconsin public employees don’t like how their unions operate, either, and are making their feelings known loud and clear. And this has to have the union bosses frightened as the reform movement spreads from state to state.

via Power Line.

(1) The dues they take in are often spent on political activities and influence buying to pursue policy goals that many of their members would object to, or even consider irrelevant to their interests. This is often done through large contributions in money and campaign work to (largely Democratic) legislators, who then reward their employers — the unions, not necessarily the voters. It is, in effect, a corrupt kickback arrangement.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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3 Responses to “The “Walker Effect”: Wisconsin PEU membership cratering?”


  1. Unions are obsolete and out of place in a global economy which they foolishly fight instead of join. The snowball effect is being graphically illustrated in that the further this goes the bigger it gets, until it slams into something.

    The drive to recall Walker had the predictable adverse effect. When recalls do not work, the officeholder who the targeted becomes even stronger.

  2. sorry drew but workers need unions,especially workers that have a politican for a boss. i’m glad that gov. walker did away with the mandatory dues law. that law took control of the union away from the members and placed in firmly in the hands of the union leaders with all the resulting political exploitation of the workers by the politicans.

  3. Aarradin says:

    When Mitch Daniels did this in Indiana, by executive order, union dues fell off by over 90% within 2 years.

    Since union bosses will still pay themselves outrageous salaries and have to do some union work to justify their existence, this meant that union contributions to politicians declined even more.

    This should be the #1 priority for any Republican administration in every state in the union. Defund the enemy by ending forced state collection of union dues.

    Be smart about it though: don’t repeat the mistake made in OH. They put the whole wish list in a stand alone bill. The unions rallied a repeal effort and won. Instead, learn from progressives: pass the agenda bit by bit (‘progressively’) as part of other bills, like the annual state budget. Or, at most, if you are going to do it in a stand alone bill, be sure its something that has overwhelming popular support and is not easily demagogued.

    Ending forced union dues collection actually passes this test: no ‘rights’ are lost. You can still have your union and it can still do everything it currently does. Your members just need to voluntarily write you a check for their dues rather than having their dues taken by the state as a condition of employment and handed to the union. Good luck to any union that tries to repeal a bill that does just this one thing.

    Remember: AFSCME is the biggest political contributor in the country, has been for decades. Its roughly half a billion every cycle. But, individually, even for the progressives in the union, these are mostly cheap pencil pushers in local and state governments that wouldn’t contribute a nickel to their most heartfelt cause. End forced union dues for public employees, and you destroy the Democrats principal source of revenue.