Commentary Magazine


Topic: union

Wisconsin Union Membership Tanks

It’s simple logic. When public employees have the choice of whether or not to pay union dues — as opposed to having them automatically pulled from their paychecks — the number of dues-paying union members shrinks. But these dramatic numbers out of Wisconsin are still remarkable:

The state’s second-largest union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, had membership fall to 28,745 in February from 62,818 in March 2011, the Journal said Thursday. The organization’s Afscme Council 24, composed of state workers, fell more than two thirds to 7,100 from 22,300 last year.

A key reason that membership dropped was because the labor law, championed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, forbids automatic collection of union dues. Instead, workers must voluntarily say that they want to continue to continuing paying dues to remain members of the union.

Union workers have also dropped out because of high pension and healthcare costs, and others believe that the unions are no longer influential.

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It’s simple logic. When public employees have the choice of whether or not to pay union dues — as opposed to having them automatically pulled from their paychecks — the number of dues-paying union members shrinks. But these dramatic numbers out of Wisconsin are still remarkable:

The state’s second-largest union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, had membership fall to 28,745 in February from 62,818 in March 2011, the Journal said Thursday. The organization’s Afscme Council 24, composed of state workers, fell more than two thirds to 7,100 from 22,300 last year.

A key reason that membership dropped was because the labor law, championed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, forbids automatic collection of union dues. Instead, workers must voluntarily say that they want to continue to continuing paying dues to remain members of the union.

Union workers have also dropped out because of high pension and healthcare costs, and others believe that the unions are no longer influential.

If the latest polls showing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker with a solid lead are to be believed, then union influence will take another major hit after Tuesday’s recall election. NRO’s Jim Geraghty explains what Walker’s reforms would mean on a national scale:

Apply this across the country . . . and you’re talking about the evisceration of one of the Democratic Party’s most important political allies – a game-changer in politics in so many states. Compulsory union-dues collection was the glue that kept the whole operation together. Ed Schultz may be exaggerating when he says a Republican win means America will never elect a Democratic president again . . . but his vision might not be that wildly exaggerated.

National Democrats have been trying to keep their distance from Wisconsin, apparently because they don’t want to throw money into a losing cause and are concerned about how a loss could reflect on President Obama and the national political zeitgeist. The irony is that a loss in Wisconsin could speed the destruction of one of the party’s key financial and political support groups.

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