Public Sector Unions Reeling In Wisconsin

Sean Higgins of the Washington Examiner had this story on Friday, but for some reason I haven’t seen it widely reported or commented on. Since Wisconsin stopped forcing public employees to pay union dues against their will, union membership in that state has plummeted:

According a Labor Department filing made last week, membership at Wisconsin’s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 40 — one of AFSCME’s four branches in the state — has gone from the 31,730 it reported in 2011, to 29,777 in 2012, to just 20,488 now. That’s a drop of more than 11,000 — about a third — in just two years. The council represents city and county employees outside of Milwaukee County and child care workers across Wisconsin.

Labor Department filings also show that Wisconsin’s AFSCME Council 48, which represents city and county workers in Milwaukee County, went from 9,043 members in 2011, to 6,046 in 2012, to just 3,498 now.

Higgins notes that the Wall Street Journal had previously reported that statewide AFSCME membership “fell to 28,745 in February from 62,818 in March 2011,” but the union has disputed those numbers.

While it will take a while for the exact dimensions of the unions’ decline to become clear, the trend is obvious: when public sector unions don’t have the compulsion of the state behind them, their ranks will thin considerably. I would guess that within another couple of years, public sector union membership in Wisconsin will be less than half what it was before membership became voluntary, if it isn’t already. There is an important lesson here: not only did Scott Walker’s reforms strike an important blow for employee freedom, they also had the happy side-effect of depriving the unions of a large chunk of their funding, and therefore their ability to sway elections. So it is a win-win for everyone, except union bosses and the politicians they support.

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