WEAC Scrambles for Power

Passage of Act 10 gave Wisconsin teachers the power to refrain from supporting or joining a teachers’ labor union in order to get or keep a job.  With a 50% loss in membership, the Wisconsin Education Association Council is turning its money and power to local races in an effort to recoup some of their power, which has been drastically reduced now that teachers can speak for themselves.  Molly Beck has the story in the Wisconsin State Journal.

Four years after public school teachers lost their guaranteed spot at the bargaining table, Wisconsin’s largest teachers union has lost more than half its membership and its spending at the Capitol has all but disappeared.

Either way, membership is down more than 50 percent from the union’s 98,000-member levels before Gov. Scott Walker signed his signature legislation in 2011 that significantly diminished collective bargaining rights for most public employees.

A decade ago, WEAC spent $1.5 million on lobbying during the 2005-2006 legislative session, state records show. The next session: $1.1 million. During the two sessions leading up to the passage of Act 10, WEAC spent $2.5 million and $2.3 million, respectively.

But during the 2013-14 session, after Walker signed the bill into law, the union spent just $175,540. It was the first time in at least 10 years that the union was not among the state’s top 12 lobbying spenders, according to the Government Accountability Board.

“That has a big effect on the political landscape,†said Mike McCabe, former executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks political spending. “They often were the No. 1 lobbying spender among interest groups and they obviously don’t have the capacity to do that anymore.â€

School district superintendents, the Wisconsin Association of School Boards and the School Administrators Alliance have been lobbying lawmakers as Republicans write education legislation. But their collective voice is not as large as WEAC’s was before Act 10 simply because there are fewer members, said McCabe.

“Generally, it hurts public education interests because there are fewer voices talking about the public education perspective at the Capitol,†he said. “I don’t think it will change in the short term. I think public employee unions are likely to get smaller before they ever get bigger.â€
“So much of the policymaking and direct impact of educational programs on kids are still controlled by those local school boards,†Lindsey said. “It’s a way to keep an eye on the prize.â€

Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said Saturday that Act 10 “put the power back in the hands of the people and local governments, saving Wisconsin taxpayers more than $3 million in the process and allowing public employees the freedom to choose if they want to join a union.