State-by-state public employment data for the last three years compiled and published by economists Barry Hirsch and David Macpherson show that the number of government jobs nationwide fell by 5.4% from 2010 to 2012 as dollars flowing from the massive 2009 federal “stimulus” package ran out and state and local governments were forced to economize. But in Wisconsin public employment fell by just 1.2% from 2010 to 2012.
It appears a key reason Wisconsin’s public employment fell less than a quarter as much as the national average is Act 10, adopted by the Badger State Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker in early 2011. Act 10 revoked the power of most government union officials in Wisconsin to get public servants fired for refusal to pay union dues or fees. It also significantly narrowed the scope of most government union chiefs’ monopoly-bargaining privileges.
Because of Act 10, state and local government officials in Wisconsin have been able to implement compensation and work-rule reforms without running into Big Labor roadblocks, largely obviating the need for layoffs. Both taxpayers and public employees have benefited from the change.
But even though public employment has fallen only a little in Wisconsin, the ranks of dues-paying government employee union members fell by roughly 20% from 2010 to 2012. Many Badger State employees apparently never believed the government unions they were forced to support actually merited that support. Once they had the option, these employees stopped paying dues.
A news story published late last month (see the link below) focuses on one union, the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that plans soon to lay off staff in response to the loss of more than two-thirds of its members:
“This decision was made purely out of financial necessity, as we now live in a reality without [forced union] dues,” union co-presidents Matt Reiter and Charity Schmidt wrote in an email Monday.
Before Act 10, all teaching assistants at UW-Madison were represented by the union — whether they wanted to be or not — and had dues automatically deducted from their paychecks. Now, [teaching assistants] don’t have to join . . . , and the union is no longer able to withdraw dues through members’ paychecks.
“It makes a huge difference,” says Schmidt in an interview.