Gov. Scott Walker and the legislature were successful in 2011 in passing a law that undermined the ability of unions in the public sector to strike. This took away the threat of the public unions. Wikipedia describes the law.
The bill requires additional contributions by state and local government workers to their health care plans and pensions, amounting to roughly an 8% decrease in the average government worker’s take home pay. The bill eliminated, for most state workers, other than certain public safety workers, many collective bargaining rights aside from seeking pay increases, and then not above the rate of inflation, unless approved by a voter referendum. Under the bill unions have to win yearly votes to continue representing government workers and could no longer have dues automatically deducted from government workers’ paychecks.
So, a union could not maintain control by winning an election once. “Once” now means for one year, not forever.
The unions tried to recall Walker in 2012. They failed. The voters backed him.
Now union members are quitting. Union dues are too high. No one has to belong to keep his job.
Public sector unions are the only unions that are still strong enough to affect wages by locking out non-union members by federal law: the Wagner Act of 1935. Union membership peaked in 1955 at about one-third of the work force. As manufacturing has shrunk to about one-third of the American economy, so has union membership. Unions member constitute about 11% of the work force. Most of these are public sector unions, where membership is 35%. Private sector union members are about 6.6% of the workforce — negligible.
White collar workers don’t join unions. They are hard to organize. There is no union tradition among white collar workers.
The Washington Post reports this on Wisconsin’s public sector unions.
Unions representing teachers, professors, trash collectors and other government employees are struggling to stem plummeting membership rolls and retain relevance in the state where they got their start. . . .
Walker’s administration has said forcing public employees to contribute more to retirement plans and health insurance helped local governments save $3 billion. . . .
“We took the power away from the big-government special interests and put it firmly in the hands of the hard-working taxpayers,” Walker told Iowa Republicans recently. “That is what we need more of in this great country. The liberals don’t like that.”
Union officials declined to release precise membership data but confirmed in interviews that enrollment is dramatically lower since the new law was signed in 2011.
The state branch of the National Education Association, once 100,000 strong, has seen its membership drop by a third. The American Federation of Teachers, which organized in the college system, saw a 50 percent decline. The 70,000-person membership in the state employees union has fallen by 70 percent.
Teachers can be replaced easily. Tax-funded universities graduate them by the truck load every year. A new graduate is credentialed and willing to work. A school district is ready to hire her. But until 2011, it had to keep older, tenured teachers on the job, where they get high pay — union rules.
The teachers’ unions — NEA and AFT — are no longer in control in Wisconsin.
The ability of the unions to keep out non-union workers by state law is gone. What was always an anti-worker law — anti-non-union workers — is no longer there to protect union members from competition from non-union workers.
The voters in Wisconsin finally figured out that they could stop tax increases by eliminating a law that reduced competition: unionized workers vs. non-union workers. Competition works. Wages in unionized sectors have stopped rising, just as the promoters of the bill promised in 2011.
As union membership declines, the political power of the unions declines. This means that the unions are unlikely to overturn the 2011 law.
It is a death spiral for unions in America. The free market is being restored: employers vs. employers, workers vs. workers. Civil government is pulling out as an agency that grants legalized cartel status to a minority of workers, enabling them to keep their wages high for members at the expense of a majority of workers who are qualified to work and who want to be allowed to bid for the available jobs.
It’s not the right to work. It’s the right to bid. That’s liberty.