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Exodus: Wisconsin Government Workers Abandon Unions in Droves

First, a mea culpa: I'm several weeks late to this story, but it's so significant that I figured I'd adopt a "better late than never" approach and bring this to your attention anyway:


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.


Wow.  Jim Geraghty's extemporaneous headline nailed the lesson here: "Here’s What Happens When Government Stops Collecting Dues for Unions."  This is exactly right.  For all of the noise organized labor made about paying more toward their healthcare and pensions, and the Hitleresque erosion of their sacred collective bargaining "rights," this is what really kept union bosses up at night.  If Scott Walker could make paying dues non-compulsory, they worried, manyrank-and-file members may realize they just aren't too interested in automatically donating to Democrats cycle after cycle after all.  Many of them might therefore opt out of the racket in order to spend their money as they see fit, thus derailing the gravy train.  As we now see, those fears have been realized on a grand scale; Wisconsin's public sector union rolls have been decimated in just over a year.  Given a free choice, government workers have clamored to drop mandatory dues like a bad habit.  Remember, this is why the Maddow crowd was so apoplectic over the spectacularly failed Wisconsin recall-o-rama:

"So [government sector unions] they go away — in terms of whether or not that corporate money that’s disproportionately supporting Republicans can be answered — at least on the Democratic side, before there is some kind of reform, Democrats do not have a way to compete in terms of big outside money in elections. And that is the reality now in Wisconsin. It is the reality in states where they have essentially eliminated unions rights...I think, structurally, that’s a pretty dire electoral situation for Democrats.”

Indeed, Ms. Maddow.

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