What happens when teachers don’t have to join a union?

Today, teachers in Kenosha, Wis., voted to decertify their union, the Kenosha Education Association, by a margin of nearly two to one. Only 37 percent of the teachers opted to retain the union in an election made possible by the labor reforms enacted under Gov. Scott Walker (R). The result goes to show that when workers have a choice on whether to join a union instead of being forced into one by law, they often choose to vote down the union.


The Kenosha Education Association is the biggest one in the state to lose certification in the era of Gov. Scott Walker’s Act 10:

Under Act 10, public employee unions must be recertified every year by an affirmative vote of at least 50 percent of the employees. The Kenosha vote means the union is not legally authorized to represent Kenosha teachers on any matter, including bargaining for wages.

Teachers can still voluntarily make contributions to the decertified union and it can represent individual teachers if they wish. The union, however, no longer has any official status in Kenosha schools. It is the largest teachers union in Wisconsin to go under since Act 10 became law.

And, now for the downplaying:

Christina Brey, speaking for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, downplayed recertification, calling it just another hoop for local unions to jump through.

“It seems like the majority of our affiliates in the state aren’t seeking re-certification, so I don’t think the KEA is an outlier or unique in this,” she said.

Brey said the union still exists with or without the recertification vote.

“They just can’t negotiate over a small portion of what they want a voice in,” she said.

But the law, and the choice it offers public employees, have been taking a toll on public unions since it passed. The Journal-Sentinel reported in July:

In the two years since Walker’s plan became law, tens of thousands of teachers and state and local workers have dropped out of their unions, according to a Journal Sentinel analysis of little-used federal financial records.

No labor group has been hit harder than the one representing Milwaukee city and county workers.

In 2010 — the year that Walker was elected governor — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 48 was thriving, having enrolled more than 9,000 workers and reporting income exceeding $7 million.

By the end of 2012, District Council 48 was down to just under 3,500 dues-paying members — a loss of nearly two-thirds of its represented workers.

Other public employee unions are faring only marginally better. Most have lost between 30% and 60% of their members in the past two years.

Walker did what he said he’d do, he implemented policies that worked, he benefited from the fact that liberals’ hysterical predictions of sky-falling never came close to being true, and in the end, he may have permanently changed the political calculus in his state. It’s been fun to watch him work.

[Democrats] understood two things from the beginning: The reforms would work and they would thin the ranks of public sector unions. That is precisely what happened. Public sector employees, given a choice about union membership, are opting out.

Walker turned a $3.6 billion deficit into a $154 million surplus. Unemployment is down. So are property taxes. Businesses, even with uncertainty about the U.S. economy, are optimistic about the direction of the state. Even with the political divisions, it’s hard to imagine a more successful 16 months as governor.

Results matter. And that, more than anything else, explains why Scott Walker won.

And, that’s why Ed says, “look to the governors in 2016.”