A Walker victory will expose for all to see the dirty little secret of the power of public-sector unions in America: It depends on having the government collect union dues from every employee’s paycheck, and turning the dues over to the unions without the employee’s consent. No other private entity in America — no charity, no association, no company — can do that.

Walker’s reforms ended that practice. Workers can now decide if they want to pay union dues. Clearly, the answer is no in many cases.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees was founded in Madison in 1936, making the state the launching pad for all public-sector-union organizing in the country. But now AFSCME’s Local 24 in Madison, which represented 22,300 Wisconsin state workers last year, has seen its membership shrink by two-thirds, to 7,100. Statewide, AFSCME’s membership has dropped by more than half. Similarly, the American Federation of Teachers has lost 6,000 of its 17,000 members. Small wonder. Teachers’-union dues in Wisconsin range from a hefty $700 a year up to more than $1,000.

Labor historian Fred Siegel says Walker’s changes could provide a model for reshaping American politics. “Ending dues deductions breaks the political cycle in which government collects dues and gives them to the unions, who then use the dues to back their favorite candidates and also lobby for bigger government and more pay and benefits,” he told me…

Perhaps sympathy for the union cause is waning among union members themselves. Many of the rank-and-file members resent their bosses’ large paychecks and alliances with liberal environmentalists and social activists. In 2010, 37 percent of union households supported Walker in his bid for governor, an election he won with 52 percent of the vote. So far this year, polls ranging from Marquette’s to Public Policy Polling (a Democratic firm) show Walker winning 38 percent to 39 percent of union households.