Study: When WI Union Members Vote, Number of Public Unions Shrink

Original Act 10 research examines effect of annual certification election results

The News: A first of its kind, five-year analysis finds that Act 10 is still working to shrink the number of public-sector unions in Wisconsin. “Democracy in the Workplace: Examining Union Recertification in Wisconsin under Act 10,” by WILL Research Director Will Flanders, PhD, and Policy Intern Lauren Tunney finds that each year, more public unions continue to fail their annual certification votes ­– resulting in a fewer public unions in Wisconsin.

This study was featured in Thursday’s Wisconsin State Journal.

The Research: Act 10, passed in 2011, was a disruptive force that shook the status quo for public-sector unions. Recent research on Act 10 has found the reforms resulted in higher test scores and a new teacher marketplace, without negative effects on class size and teacher gross pay. WILL’s new original research examined the effect annual union certification votes, a critical Act 10 reform, had on public unions, union members, and education in Wisconsin.

  • Union membership in Wisconsin has declined by 100,000 since 2013, and the number of unions has dropped by a third.
  • There is no relationship between union decertification and student outcomes.
  • Unions in conservative areas were more likely to lose recertification votes.
  • Union decertification peaked in the immediate years after Act 10, and has since plateaued.
  • The vote share to maintain a union has increased, signaling resilience and support among members of current unions.
  • Education unions have been more resilient than public works and highway unions.

The Quote: Research Director Will Flanders said, “Act 10 shook the status quo for public employee unions in Wisconsin. And when workers get a say in the future of their union, the number of public employee unions in Wisconsin continues to shrink.”

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