Turnout Varies in Wisconsin Union Re-Certification Election


Part way through a consequential re-certification election for public sector unions, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission released turnout results. The figures do not indicate how union members voted, but simply how many of them have voted so far. The final results of the election, which involve some 400 plus unions and 56,304 members, will be public Thursday.

The WERC numbers shows turnout wildly varying across the state from union to union by December 9. Although not real-time information, the figures are the only publicly available scraps of data available prior to the final results being announced.

Public sector unions in Wisconsin have had to annually ask their members to recertify in an election. The annual elections were part of Governor Scott Walker’s collective bargaining reforms for public sector unions.

In Milwaukee, home to the largest local education union in the state, 3,754 members of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association’s 6,857 total teachers had cast a ballot by early December. Also by that same time, 777 of the 1,559 individuals employed by Milwaukee Public Schools and are part of other unions had cast re-certification ballots.

Over in La Crosse, 376 members of the 592-member strong La Crosse Education Association had voted on re-certification.

Up in Green Bay, 859 members of the Green Bay Education Association’s 1,792 members voted by December 9th.

In Appleton, one of the state’s five largest teachers unions, the Appleton Education Association saw 679 members of 1,146 total cast votes by the halfway point.

In Abbotsford, Almond-Bancroft, Athens, Elcho, Independence, La Farge, Maple Dale-Indian Hill, and Middleton Cross Plains school districts some unions of teachers, paraeducators and support staff failed to have a single ballot cast by December 9th. Those unions range in size from 25 members to 141 members.

At the West Bend Education Association only 180 of 467 members had cast ballots halfway through the election.

Turnout was very strong, however, in Racine where 1,160 of 1,670 members of the Racine Education Association cast ballots by December 9th.

Failing to vote in a union re-certification election is similar to voting against certification. State law requires that in order for a union to gain re-certification it must have the approval of more than 50% of its members. Thus, if a member does not vote, even though he or she did not appear in the turnout total, their absence is effectively a vote against the union.

With dated turnout data, it is impossible to predict the outcome of any specific election. And smaller unions that saw few, if any, people voting by December 9th could easily turnout votes by the election deadline.

Three unions, according to WERC’s report, have withdrawn their petitions for re-certification despite the fact that the election is not yet over. Those unions are the Professional Educators of Rosholt, and Milwaukee Public Schools’ AFSCME District Council 48 Locals 1616 and 1053.