Numbers of public sector unions in Wisconsin collapsed in the wake of an historic vote that ended on Thursday. The unions are acutely feeling the impact of Act 10, Governor Scott Walker’s controversy-generating collective bargaining reforms of 2011. The reforms require public sector unions to hold annual recertification votes. In order to be certified as unions by the state, the labor groups must get the approval of over 50% of their members.
For several weeks now the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission has been holding an open and ongoing vote for over 400 unions, mostly made up of public school teachers and support staff. The result of each union’s election was made public late Thursday afternoon. What emerged was not a pretty picture for the state’s public sector labor movement.
According to a preliminary count, a total of over 5,500 union members have walked away from a labor union in this round of recertification elections.
In Milwaukee, home of the state’s largest and most powerful education union, an entire unit of substitute teachers failed to recertify. It’s a harsh blow for labor in the heart of a city known for its long, colorful and at times controversial association with American labor movements.
The vote in Milwaukee wasn’t even close. Of the 320 members of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association’s substitute teacher unit, only 128 voted to recertify as a union.
While other MTEA unions survived, the lone defeat would have been nearly unthinkable prior Walker’s reforms.
In Dane County, the bastion of anti-Walker sentiment and home to the state’s capital city, two AFSCME-affiliated units servicing food service, maintenance and transportation employees failed to recertify.
Outside of Milwaukee in the suburb of Menomonee Falls, the 312-strong teachers union failed its vote.
Unions in Lake Geneva, Fond du Lac, Germantown, Beaver Dam, Elcho, New Berlin and Merrill also failed to recertify.
The full results of the union elections are available on the state’s WERC website.