The Campaign Spot

What Happens When Government Stops Collecting Union Dues?

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Here’s What Happens When Government Stops Collecting Dues for Unions

Wow. Just . . . wow.

Wisconsin membership in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — the state’s second-largest public-sector union after the National Education Association, which represents teachers — fell to 28,745 in February from 62,818 in March 2011, according to a person who has viewed Afscme’s figures. A spokesman for Afscme declined to comment.

Much of that decline came from Afscme Council 24, which represents Wisconsin state workers, whose membership plunged by two-thirds to 7,100 from 22,300 last year.

A provision of the Walker law that eliminated automatic dues collection hurt union membership. When a public-sector contract expires the state now stops collecting dues from the affected workers’ paychecks unless they say they want the dues taken out, said Peter Davis, general counsel of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.

In many cases, Afscme dropped members from its rolls after it failed to get them to affirm they want dues collected, said a labor official familiar with Afscme’s figures. In a smaller number of cases, membership losses were due to worker layoffs.

Looks like a lot of public sector workers may like their unions . . . but not enough to keep paying the dues if they have the option. Like, two-thirds of them.

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.

Over at the lefty blog FireDogLake, David Dayen notes, “The state president of the American Federation of Teachers is quoted in the article saying that a failure in the recall spells doom for unions nationwide. There’s a lot of truth to that. And that’s why it was so important for the national funding to flow into Wisconsin to take a stand here . . .”

Rick Moran writes:

There is a lot at stake for organized labor in this recall vote. But perhaps not unexpectedly, the voting public has largely moved on from the collective bargaining controversy and now see jobs and jobs creation as the primary issue for the recall vote. A win will be interpreted by labor bosses as vindication rather than a general unhappiness with the Wisconsin economy. That only proves how truly out of touch they are with ordinary people who don’t see the unions representing their interests anymore.

Our Bob Costa takes a closer look at the phenomenon of shrinking unions in Wisconsin on NRO today.


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