Union Membership Plummeting in Wisconsin

Scott Walker / AP
January 28, 2014

Public sector employees are fleeing Wisconsin unions due to Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s labor reforms.

The state’s politically powerful American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) suffered a 45 percent drop in revenue, as workers opted out of dues payments, according to the Capital Times.

In 2011, the year Act 10 was approved, the four councils that make up the state organization reported a combined income of $14.9 million. In 2012, the first full year that the law was in place, the revenue had dropped roughly 45 percent, to $8.3 million.

Walker’s reforms curbed the union’s ability to negotiate benefits and other aspects of collective bargaining, which helped close the $3.6 billion budget gap he inherited from Democrat Jim Doyle. The state’s return to prosperity went hand-in-hand with a steep decline in public sector unionism. AFSCME is not the only group that has suffered.

Act 10 has hit other big unions in the state hard, although not to the same extent as AFSCME. For instance, WEAC, the state’s largest teachers union, saw its revenue drop from $26 million in 2011 to $20 million in 2012.

Declining membership and clout for the WEAC has led the union to consider merging with the American Federation of Teachers, the state’s second largest teachers union.

Unions attempted to recall Walker in the wake of the labor reforms. Walker became the first governor in history to win a recall election in 2012.