Most of the attention on Governor Scott Walker’s reform of public-employee union laws focused on narrowing the negotiation range of PEUs. The law restricted most PEUs to negotiating on wages only, not benefits, which forced the Wisconsin Education Association Trust to start offering competitive pricing for health-insurance coverage rather than gouging taxpayers to stuff the union’s coffers. That alone saved Wisconsin many millions of dollars, allowing Walker and the legislature to balance the budget without cutting jobs.
Another key provision may have almost as much impact on politics and education, if not on the budget itself. The law required PEUs to hold recertification votes every year, rather than only when enough members demand it. This year, more than 70 unions lost their certification votes:
Workers rejected over 70 of 408 school district unions during annual recertification elections that ended on Thursday, according to a preliminary analysis of the results.
The elections went from November 29th until noon on December 19th and involved 408 collective bargaining units around the state associated with school districts. Workers cast their votes using a telephone voting system.
AFSCME Local 60 Council 40, including support staff in the Sun Prairie School District, was the largest union to be decertified. Only 135 of the 367 members voted to recertify.
Substitute teachers with the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association also decertified with 128 of 320 members voting for the union.
There were 19 actual teachers unions that decertified. The largest included New Berlin, Menomonee Falls, Pewaukee, Berlin, Waterford.
That amounts to only a small percentage of the educational PEUs (17%), but it’s not an insignificant percentage, either. Moreover, this sends a pretty clear message to the unions in Wisconsin, who like most PEUs, have focused a lot more on political activism than customer service over the years. If their membership has the opportunity to hold them accountable on an annual basis, they’d better change their focus tout suite.
That will also have a positive impact on Wisconsin, and it might even have a positive impact on unions in the long run. If they do focus on the workers rather than elections, then workers will be more positive about unions, and it might help in building their movement from its present state of collapse. For the rest of Wisconsin, it means that the unions will have less time and resources to corrupt politics in their state, and taxpayers can once again take control of budgets and legislation. Maybe everyone wins — including Walker, who will face his own “recertification” vote in 2014.