Nearly 15,000 Members Didn’t Vote In Favor of Their Union
December 1, 2014[Madison, Wisc…] In elections that ended last Tuesday, government workers voted to decertify 25 school district unions that sought recertification. Plus, 100 fewer unions than last year chose to seek recertification. Last year, 408 units sought recertification. This year, the number was down to 305.
Under the 2011 Act 10 reforms, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) is required to hold annual recertification elections for unions associated with school districts. Unions must attain “yes” votes from 51 percent of eligible union members to continue serving as an authorized collective bargaining unit – making a non-vote essentially a vote against union recertification.
This year’s elections occurred from November 5th to 25th and 305 unions filed for recertification. Of the 305, 25 unions lost their recertification votes.
Workers cast their votes using a telephone voting system managed by WERC.
The Appleton Area Substitute Teachers Association was the largest union to lose its recertification vote. Only 122 of the 270 members (45 percent) voted in favor of the union.
Members of the Elkhorn Education Association – the district’s main teachers’ union – also voted to decertify in this year’s election. This was the second largest union to lose a vote, only gaining support from 43 percent of members.
A union representing engineers at Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) also lost its vote. IUOE Local 420 received 45 percent of the vote from eligible members, resulting in decertification.
If a union chooses not to seek recertification or loses it recertification vote, it can no longer represent employees at the bargaining table. Since Act 10 went into effect, public sector unions are only allowed to negotiate base-level pay, which cannot exceed inflation.
More than 80 unions lost recertification votes during last year’s elections, which may have led to fewer unions seeking recertification this year. In 2013, 408 unions filed for recertification. That number dropped by more than 100 this year to 305.
Most major Wisconsin school district unions that filed for a recertification vote garnered more than 51 percent of their members’ support. Members of unions representing teachers at MPS and Madison’s schools both voted to approve their collective bargaining units.
While a majority of unions that sought recertification gained more than 51 percent of support in their elections, a large number of union members chose to vote against or not vote for their collective bargaining unit. In total, 14,820 union members did not vote in favor of recertification.
This could spell bad news for unions. The amount of bargaining units even trying to recertify dropped by more than 25 percent since last year and thousands of public union members all across Wisconsin did not vote in support of being represented by their union.
Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) – the state’s largest teachers’ union – President Betsy Kippers claimed, “Wisconsin education unions are alive and well.” But, it seems that WEAC may be trying to hide its quickly fading support from members.
According to reports, about half of WEAC affiliates did not even try to get recertified this year.
Kippers tried to neatly portray this year’s elections as a success for unions, but other union bosses have cranked up the rhetoric in the past. Before last year’s recertification elections, a local union boss compared them to communist China.
“Gov. Walker and his Employment Relations Commission are taking a page right out of the playbook of communist China, making a complete mockery of the idea of fair elections,” said Boyd McCamish, Executive Director of AFSCME Council District 48, at the time.
McCamish was clearly against the recertification elections and spoke out against the timing, which fell over Thanksgiving break. However, the reason for the timing was because Dane County Judge Juan Colas tried to delay the elections. The Supreme Court overturned his decision last year and the elections took place from November 29th to December 19th.
This year’s recertification elections saw fewer fireworks as union bosses tried to prolong the status quo. But according to the results, it seems many union members are headed in a different direction.