Friday, June 1, 2012

Mission Accomplished – Wisconsin Laws to Gut Public Employee Unions Have Gutted Public Employee Unions

Looking for the Last Nail in the Coffin – Here It Comes with Gov. Walker’s Recall Win

When Wisconsin voters put Scott Walker in the Governor’s office in 2010 they did not know it but they voted to pretty much end the role of public employee unions in the state.  The Governor had a secret plan to pass legislation to effectively end public employee representation, and after an acrimonious debate the legislature passed such a plan.  The results are unmistakable.

Wisconsin membership in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees—the state's second-largest public-sector union after the National Education Association, which represents teachers—fell to 28,745 in February from 62,818 in March 2011, according to a person who has viewed Afscme's figures. A spokesman for Afscme declined to comment.

Much of that decline came from Afscme Council 24, which represents Wisconsin state workers, whose membership plunged by two-thirds to 7,100 from 22,300 last year.

The process was basically very simple.  The state curtained bargaining rights, ended mandatory collection of union dues and increased worker pension costs so that the only way employees could maintain their current disposable income was to stop paying union dues.

Tina Pocernich, a researcher at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, was a dues-paying union member for 15 years. But after the Walker law went into effect she told the American Federation of Teachers she wanted out.

"It was a hard decision for me to make," said Ms. Pocernich, a 44-year-old mother of five, who left the union in March. "But there's nothing the union can do anymore."

But economic factors also played a role. Mr. Walker required public-sector employees to shoulder a greater share of pension and health-care costs, which ate up an added $300 of Ms. Pocernich's monthly salary of less than $3,100. She and her husband, a floor supervisor at a machine shop, cut back on their satellite-TV package and stopped going to weekly dinners at Applebee's.

Meanwhile, she said, she paid the AFT $18.50 out of her biweekly paycheck and was now getting nothing in return. Her college eliminated one small-but-treasured perk, the ability to punch out an hour early during summer months—and the union was powerless to stop it.

None of this involved economics or the cost of government, the program was designed to end that last vestige of organized support for Democrats.  It will not save the state money, but it will cement in place the power of Conservatives, whose monetary edge in politics is now so great that Wisconsin may well support a Republican in the fall.

Backers have poured more than $30 million into his campaign since last year, compared with $3.9 million raised by his opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who entered the race in late March.

This will now set the stage for the next phase, the ending of public education in the states like Wisconsin.  With no union to oppose it, the state will move towards providing students with vouchers to be used at private schools, and the guarantee of a free public school education for every child in America will start its slow decline towards extinction.

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