Could a U.S. Supreme Court ruling have the same effect nationally as Act 10 has had in Wisconsin? That seems to be very likely.
With many court watchers focusing on cases regarding redistricting and cake bakers in Colorado, one court case could send shock waves throughout the political landscape. If the nation’s highest court rules as expected in Janus vs. AFSCME later this spring, we could see an end of forced unionization in the public and government sector and with it a substantial loss of revenue for one of the biggest forces in Democratic politics.
That’s all according to new internal polling done by the National Education Association or NEA; the country’s biggest teachers union and parent organization of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), on its membership. In it they discover that if members were given the freedom to choose on whether to join and pay for their memberships of their own accord, many would not.
The union asked this question to members who currently work in states that allow unions to charge representation fees to non-members: “If you woke up tomorrow and discovered that you could stop paying a fee to your union but the union would still have to represent you, would you still opt to pay?” Among members to whom the union had talked within the past few years, 57 percent said they would not pay. If the union had not talked to them in the past few years, that number jumped to 69 percent.
That’s an astonishing number. One which suggests that without forced unionization and collection of dues, many of the nation’s public employee unions would simply cease to be.
If any of that sounds familiar, similar numbers have occurred in Wisconsin post-Act 10.
According to the MacIver Institute, WEAC membership has plummeted statewide with 58 percent of the organization’s members opting to leave five years after Act 10’s enactment. In addition to its drop in membership, WEAC has seen its effectiveness dwindle outside of Democratic primary politics, and revenue dry up. In 2017, it decided to rent out parts of its Madison-area office complex to local and regional teachers unions rather than sell the property outright after it laid off half its staff.
Similar numbers have been seen in other public employee unions, particularly the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which has seen a 70 percent decline in membership in two of its state councils according to media reports.
That is not to say Act 10 or even Janus would be the end of public employee unions. If it anything, such a change in their status quo would likely force these organizations to actually prove their value to their members. Something which, at the cost of their union dues, many union members might appreciate.
However, it is more likely what you will see nationally is what’s already being seen in Wisconsin where union-friendly islands in Madison and Milwaukee have popped up. As a result, this have given these local unions enough clout to do as they please thanks to the area’s already prevalent progressive politics.
While a ruling on Janus vs. AFSCME could come down from the U.S. Supreme Court at anytime, most believe it will be handed down when the current session ends around the first week in June.