The case against Walker failed largely for two reasons. First, the public unions weren’t defending rights, but privileges. There is nothing written in stone that says public-sector workers must have collective-bargaining rights (they don’t at the federal level); that the state must collect dues for the unions (other organizations don’t get that benefit); that members of government unions must pay only 0.2 percent of their wages into their pensions and 6 percent of their health-care premiums (far below the averages in the private sector).
Second, the reforms worked. School districts took advantage of their new flexibility under the Walker reforms to achieve significant savings. In an irony that says much about last night’s outcome, Walker’s opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, himself used the reforms to save an estimated $10 million for his city.
No wonder that by the end, Barrett was hitting Walker on everything but the changes that precipitated the recall in the first place.
Yesterday’s vote may be remembered as the death rattle of public-sector unions in the state that first created them. The Wall Street Journal reports that union membership has already steeply declined. The Wisconsin chapter of AFSCME has shrunk from 62,818, when Walker undertook his reforms to 28,745. The American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin lost 6,000 members out of 17,000.
Union sisterhood and brotherhood aren’t quite as glorious once the dues are no longer mandatory.