Suddenly the union’s wealth and political clout may be in danger, due to changes imposed by Act 10.
The biggest difference is that the new law bans public schools from deducting union membership dues from teachers’ paychecks. That means WEAC has to count on loyal members to pay dues voluntarily.
It’s a measurement of how much rank-and-file teachers really support their union.
Thus far things don’t seem to be going well. WEAC announced Monday that it will be laying off 42 employees, or about 40 percent of its workforce, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
That’s a sign that teachers are not very eager to voluntarily pay dues, and the union treasury may be running a bit dry. With only a percentage of its former revenue coming in, it’s difficult to picture WEAC spending big money on future lobbying efforts.
Suddenly the big spending political bully seems like a toothless shadow of its former self.
WEAC Executive Director Dan Burkhalter blamed the Walker administration and it’s “union-busting legislation” for the lack of revenue and layoffs.
If the union has anyone to blame, it has to be its rank-and-file members. Teachers have apparently been slow to provide WEAC with bank account information for direct dues payments, despite the teams of “home visitors” that have been dispatched to pressure members over the summer.
That situation says more about the union than it does about Walker or state government. If teachers really supported their union, they would pay their dues. If they don’t support their union, should they be forced to be members and pay dues?
If the union is not an organization of willing participants, does it really deserve to have a major influence in Madison? The suspicion is that WEAC is really nothing more than a small group of radical leaders who have been forcing captive members to finance their agenda for years.
Of course it’s too early to tell how many local unions will survive union recertification votes, and how many teachers will eventually voluntarily pay dues. The flow of union dollars will surely increase to some degree when school starts and teachers are back to work.
That’s when we will learn more definitively if WEAC is truly an organization that represents the majority of state teachers. If that’s not the case, then it should not play a significant role in shaping state education policy. And with a lack of revenue, it will no longer be able to afford to purchase that type of political influence, anyway.
The teachers in most Wisconsin public schools are now basically free agents. It will be fascinating to see whether they choose to unite willingly under the WEAC banner, or if the union as we know it is destined to fade into the history books.
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