In early 2011, Wisconsin and Ohio became the first two states ever to roll back public-sector forced union dues and fees after having statutorily authorized them. Both Wisconsin’s Act 10 and Ohio’s S.B.5 revoked government union officials’ privilege to get public servants fired for refusal to pay dues or fees to an unwanted union. Both statutes also sharply curtailed government union chiefs’ other monopoly-bargaining privileges.
After Act 10 and S.B.5 were approved, Big Labor mounted massive and lavishly-financed campaigns to overturn both measures. In Wisconsin, union officials and their allies used the legal system to prevent Act 10 from taking effect, but were unsuccessful. They also repeatedly launched “recall” campaigns to oust politicians who had supported Act 10, but the net result of elections since Act 10 was adopted has been to increase support for this statute in both chambers of the Legislature. A union-label lawsuit to overturn Act 10 was firmly rejected by a federal appeals court early this year. Other Big Labor litigation has temporarily blocked full enforcement of Act 10, but the vast majority of legal observers expect the law ultimately to be upheld in its entirety, or virtually so, by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
In contrast, in Ohio Big Labor mounted a statewide petition drive and succeeded in preventing S.B.5 from taking effect. The union elite then dipped deep into their forced dues-funded treasuries to outspend proponents vastly and kill Issue 2, the November 2011 ballot measure that would have finally allowed S.B.5 to take effect and kept it on the books.
The multimillion-dollar TV advertising blitz union bosses deployed against S.B.5 shrilly insisted that the measure had to be obliterated in order to protect the jobs of teachers, policemen, and other public employees. In reality, S.B.5 would have helped preserve civil servants’ jobs by enabling elected officials to use the money they have at their disposal more effectively. It would have accomplished this objective by curtailing government union bosses’ monopolistic power to obstruct needed reforms in compensation and work rule policies.
The contrast between Ohio and Wisconsin is stark in new and revised data released by the U.S. Commerce Department September 30 for annual employment in state and local government (see the link below).
In 2011 and 2012, the first two years S.B.5 would have been in effect had not Big Labor quashed it, state and local government jobs in Ohio fell by more than 24,000, or 3.4%. Meanwhile, in Wisconsin state and local government employment fell by slightly over 3000, or 0.8%, during the first two years after Act 1o was adopted.
Of course, reductions in the number of government employments can at times be advisable and necessary in the wake of years of excessive hiring, or a reduction in demand for public services, or a decline in tax revenues available. But generally speaking, when governments need to economize, the preferable course is to reform the way employees are compensated rather than cut jobs. In Wisconsin, compensation reforms helped enable the state government to eliminate a multibillion-dollar budget deficit with a minimal reduction in state and local government jobs, less than half the national average of 1.9%.
Meanwhile, Big Labor-dominated Ohio’s civil service job cuts were nearly double the national average in percentage terms. The union bosses may consider union members’ job losses an acceptable price to pay for the perpetuation of their monopoly privileges, but for unionized public workers themselves the 2011 “victory” over S.B.5 was a hollow one indeed.