The First Amendment, alive and well in Wisconsin

The story: The Teaching Assistants’ Association at the University of Wisconsin at Madison — the oldest TA union in the nation — voted not to recertify their own union.

Last week, after hours of debate, the union’s members voted not to seek state certification to continue to act as a collective bargaining agent.

The vote is a requirement of Wisconsin’s new collective bargaining law — under the law, unions have to check with their memberships every year — they have to hold a vote — to make sure those members still want to be a union.

What that means is: a majority of Madison’s TAs no longer want to be a union.

The other story: WEAC, Wisconsin’s public teacher’s union, expects to lose up to half its dues-paying members:

The latest IRS documentation available indicates WEAC pulled in about $24 million in member dues in 2009.

That number is expected to decrease as member dues will no longer be automatically deducted from paychecks.

One employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said the number of members who will contribute to the union is expected to decrease from almost 100,000 in 2009-10, to less than 50,000.

Walker’s reforms forbid local governments, including schools, from withholding union dues from paychecks. Union members will have to actually write a check now, or set up a direct deposit…if they want to continue paying at all. Under Walker’s reforms, they no longer have to.

The First Amendment guarantees speech and assembly, with the implied rights of expression and, more appropriate to the subject at hand, association. Until Governor Walker’s reforms became law, teachers and other government employees could only exercise that right of association by quitting their jobs.

True, the TAs’ vote means even those who want the union can’t have it. The same with WEAC’s troubles: many of their members no longer want to be members, but many of their members do, and want a strong, active union.

They’re less likely to get that now.

But. The TAs vote does not prevent those pro-union TAs from organizing amongst themselves. It does not prevent those TAs from negotiation with the UW as a group. Ditto WEAC’s members.

It does prevent them from forcing other TAs — and other schoolteachers — to join and pay for the union whether they like it or not.

And as George Will pointed out this week, when union members get to decide for themselves whether or not they want to be union members, many of them choose no:

After Colorado in 2001 required public employees unions to have annual votes reauthorizing collection of dues, membership in the Colorado Association of Public Employees declined 70 percent. In 2005, Indiana stopped collecting dues from unionized public employees; in 2011, there are 90 percent fewer dues-paying members. In Utah, the end of automatic dues deductions for political activities in 2001 caused teachers’ payments to fall 90 percent. After a similar law passed in 1992 in Washington state, the percentage of teachers making such contributions declined from 82 to 11.

Which brings me to another excerpt from the TA story, found way down at the end:

The new Wisconsin law on unions, (union co-president Adrienne) Pagac said, was an attempt to undercut unions. Last week’s decision was not one anyone wanted to make, but reflected the limited choices available, she said. “No one else should decide who makes us a union,” said Pagac. “We decide. It’s our decision, not Governor Walker’s decision.”

And you have made your decision, Ms. Pagac. Not Governor Walker. Governor Walker didn’t choose to non-recertify (or whatever the correct phrase is) your union. Your members — or, I suppose, former members — did.

I dare say that was the first time many — if not all — of your members have even had a say in that decision. Up until now, that decision was made for them. No input necessary.

Now, if you’re able, respect their decision, whether you agree with it or not.

(Posted by The TrogloPundit.)

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