In Sunday's paper, Dan Bice had a column reporting on the drop in membership of public sector unions since the passage of Act 10, noting that most unions have lost 30% to 60% of their member.
Bice went to Scott Walker regarding this and let Walker spew the standard party line about the drop in numbers:
Reached earlier this month, Walker said he was not surprised by the numbers.Needless to say, Walker is so full of it, he could fertilize 40 acres of farmland by himself.
"We were trying to empower workers and give them a choice," the first-term Republican governor said. "If workers saw value out of their union, then they have every right to stay put. But if they didn't, they could make that choice."
Walker rejected any suggestion that he had effectively handicapped the once-powerful labor groups with his legislation.
"People said at the time, 'Oh, you're trying to get rid of the unions,'" Walker recalled. "I said, 'No, I'm trying to have them show value.' Workers are making their value assumptions."
First of all, one would have to be totally oblivious to the fact that it is a federal law that requires an opt out choice for union members. Act 10, in that sense, is a needless redundancy. This alone shows that Act 10 was designed to do much more than empower workers. If anything, empowering workers is about the only thing it doesn't do.
What it comes down to is not so much the value of the unions, but the ability to pay the dues to be a member.
Bice also spoke to labor law expert Paul Secunda regarding the drop in membership numbers. His answers go part of the way:
One labor law expert challenged Walker's statement on his motives.Secunda is correct in what he says, but his answer is incomplete.
"Absolutely disingenuous," said Paul Secunda, an associate professor at Marquette University Law School.
Secunda, who hasn't given to Democratic or Republican candidates in recent years, said it's clear that Act 10 was part of an orchestrated effort to undermine public employee unions, noting that GOP governors in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan had made similar proposals.
Walker's plan, the professor said, contains such punitive measures as requiring unions to recertify annually and barring employees from paying their union dues through payroll deductions.
Beyond that, the governor reduced the importance of these unions by prohibiting collective bargaining on anything but wage increases — and then only up to the rate of inflation. Secunda said even those public employees who agree with the idea of unions must be asking why they should pay dues to get the same pay raise as everybody else in government.
"It's not about liking or disliking unions," Secunda said.
The unions are still representing their members in grievances and in disciplinary hearings. They can still make sure that the workplace is safe, that the rules are being applied fairly and that workers are treated equally.
The unions still protect the workers, as they have done in Milwaukee, where there is at least five or six lawsuits pending, all of which deal with the restoration of things that were wrongly taken from them. And mush to Milwaukee County Emperor Chris Abele's chagrin, the county has been squandering tens of thousands of dollars in appealing the rulings against them, only to lose them again.
It's not only public sector workers who gain from their unions. The unions have been involved in community gardening, hygiene supply drives, fundraising for charities or for individuals in need.
Needless to say, the public sector unions still offer great value to their members as well as to the members of the community.
ABILITY TO PAY
Since we can now clearly see that unions do indeed show value, why is membership numbers so low?
The answer is simple. Follow the money. Or the lack thereof.
I addressed this issue when former blargher Owen Robinson was celebrating the impoverishment on tens of thousands of workers were already having ripple effects throughout the state:
As Jeff pointed out the other day, Act 10 has serious financial consequences for working families across the state. And it's not just the public sector workers who have had their wages docked by as much as 10 to 20%, but are also facing higher costs to see the doctor or to get medication. There are public sector workers that now qualify for financial aid and food stamps because of Act 10.Bice noted in his article that AFSCME District Council 48, representing workers in Milwaukee County, was hit hardest. That would only follow logic, since Milwaukee County workers have been given the squeezed
People in the private sector, most notably the service industry, are also getting hurt as the demand dries up as the cash is being taken out of our economy. This is why we're seeing more businesses shutting their doors and more and more people getting laid off.
Another way that this malicious sabotage of our economy is hurting is by driving highly qualified people from their fields, because they can no longer afford it or deal with the stress of it:
Stephanie Kline resigned from her position as an 8th grade math teacher at New Richmond Middle School in Wisconsin. Her last day of teaching is June 6, 2012. A final straw for Kline came when her 5-year-old son was refused services at her New Richmond Clinic for an outstanding medical bill accrued this past year. Her medical deductible increased $3,500 coupled with a salary decrease of $2000 in the 2011-2012 school year. The decreasing ability to support her family, along with stress, uncertainty, and lack of communication has pushed her out of the teaching profession. Her story may resonate with many workers around the state who have experienced changes in their profession due to public policy choices. However, Kline’s story is a personal one. She states several times throughout this interview that she is “only speaking for myself, and not other teachers.”What Robinson is celebrating is not the liberation of thousands of people suddenly freed from a tyrannical union, but people having to drop their memberships because they need that money to put food on the table, keep a roof over their head and make sure their families get the medical care they need.
What Robinson is celebrating is the impoverishment and indenturing of tens of thousands of families, just so that he can save a whopping $12 on his property taxes.
more than twice than any other public sector worker in the state. Currently, Milwaukee County is requiring it's workers to pay 25% towards their health insurance, about twice any other public sector employee pays. And even that wasn't enough for Abele.
If one doesn't have enough money to pay for one's groceries without public assistance, how is one supposed also afford their union dues?
Before any of our conservative readers start to gloat about this, remember that it is Walker's legalized robbery of public sector workers which has caused the state's economy and job market to sink like a rock. If your wages and/or hours get cut, if your business starts to flounder, and if you start struggling with your bills, you can trace it all right back to Walker and Act 10.
In summary, the drop in membership is not a reflection of people opting out of the union as Walker and his apologists claim. It is a measurement of just how afraid the corporate puppet of a governor and his masters are of the unions, that they would make it so that the workers are lucky to keep a roof over their head and food on the table, much less be able to pay their dues.
And it verifies Thomas Donahue's famous quote: "The only effective answer to organized greed is organized labor."