cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
Public sector labor organizations took a potentially big hit in the approval of the Wisconsin budget as crafted by the Governor and the Republican-dominated Assembly and Senate. The outcry has softened a bit now and I wonder what the ultimate effect of all this will prove to be?
There is certainly a big push from labor organizations both within and from outside Wisconsin. These organizations feel very threatened given that the state is no longer withholding union contributions from pay checks and given the very small set of workplace issues that are still available for bargaining by these unions.
The recall elections for Republicans were triggered in large part by this part of the legislation, as were the public demonstrations in Madison and elsewhere in the state. The Democrats and their supporters sense they have a real problem if this goes forward as currently cast. Republicans seem to be feeling they’ll survive BUT there is, frankly, some conjecture to be found that suggests there is not the level of certainty about the recall elections that once existed. A tremendous amount of television and radio time has been purchased.
We’ll soon know the outcomes of the recall elections and that will settle, for a while at least, the question on how much damage was done to the Republicans by the Republicans. The Democrat recall elections were triggered by the disappearance of the fourteen to Illinois to thwart a quorum, so those outcomes aren’t very good barometers on the Republican damage, if there is Republican damage.
Beyond this speculation lies the question of what this legislation will do, ultimately, to the public sector unions. Even if the Democrats wrest control of the Senate away from Republicans, nothing will change so far as laws already passed unless the courts ultimately make those changes.
Public sector unions will have to deal with the hands they’ve been dealt. If other states’ similar actions and the attendant results are any indication, the unions face a potential large loss of dues-paying members. And, with that, they face the loss of their political clout since they have been significant sources of funding for Democrat candidates both at the state and national levels. Ohio public sector unions went through this firestorm and emerged as shells of their former selves.
WEAC, the teacher’s union in Wisconsin, has, I believe, significant problems. I have engaged in discussions with teacher friends and acquaintances many years before this latest calamity. They have borne out the apparent fact that if there are 100 members of a local teacher’s union, some 15 to 20 of those members are really strong union believers. The balance belongs because they had to belong. They participate because they would be ostracized if they didn’t participate.
We have heard the reports of door-to-door canvassing by members of WEAC locals to the homes of their members trying to secure automatic dues withdrawal permission from those members. This is seen by some as the attempt to coerce members into staying members. Given low annual incomes for beginning teachers, and given the expense of being a union member, I suspect that WEAC will see a large erosion of members across Wisconsin.
At the same time, the WEAC-driven WEA Insurance Trust organization that has enjoyed a near-monopoly for teacher health insurance and other benefit coverage has fallen on tougher times since the contractual mandates that it is the sole source for health insurance benefits as has been written into many contracts has been put aside in many of those districts already. The insurance operation has been a large source of revenue for its parent and that reduction in revenue, coupled with lesser dues income, means WEAC is going to have to really tighten its belt…and may not have the clout it is accustomed to wielding.
Will WEAC survive if its powers are eroded?