Retire the Union
May 11, 2011
Wisconsin’s biggest teacher union is discontinuing its annual convention. That blessed three-day school week we used to savor once each fall is history.
Evidently the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) concluded if teachers are free to choose whether to join the union, the union must choose between spending money on its annual gabfest or on more direct efforts to recapture its role as the 800-pound gorilla of Wisconsin politics.
WEAC president Mary Bell backhandedly admitted as much in announcing the possibility of laying- off union staff in response to declining membership dues. She denied this would result from ending mandatory dues being automatically withheld from her members’ paychecks. Instead she suggested teacher retirements would shrink the membership.
There’s no doubt the next few years will bring many retirements but that was going to happen anyway. Countless baby-boomers are getting ready to call it quits and there’s no reason teaching should be different from any other line of work.
According to WisPolitics, Bell said the union is waiting to see whether large numbers of retirees are replaced or their positions left vacant, depleting membership. Ironically, the Governor’s collective bargaining reforms requiring teachers to pay for part of their pensions and benefits will make it more affordable for school districts to replace retirees.
Whether the replacements will feel a need to pay no-longer-compulsory union dues is another matter. WisPolitics quoted Bell saying rather than give up and go away, WEAC is “stronger, we are louder and we are more united than ever.”