In 2011, Wisconsin Governor incurred the wrath of the left by standing up to the public sector employee unions and introducing Act 10, also known as the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill. The bill put a stop to abusive union practices, including forcing employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment.
The effect on union membership has been profound: according to ASFME LM-2 filing found here, the public sector unions have lost tens of thousands of due-paying members. As Sean Higgens at the Washington Examiner wrote:
According a Labor Department filing made last week, membership at Wisconsin’s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 40 — one of AFSCME’s four branches in the state — has gone from the 31,730 it reported in 2011, to 29,777 in 2012, to just 20,488 now. That’s a drop of more than 11,000 — about a third — in just two years. The council represents city and county employees outside of Milwaukee County and child care workers across Wisconsin.
Labor Department filings also show that Wisconsin’s AFSCME Council 48, which represents city and county workers in Milwaukee County, went from 9,043 members in 2011, to 6,046 in 2012, to just 3,498 now.
Breitbart News reached out to AFSCME in Wisconsin and offered to print whatever statement they wanted to give us, in full. They have declined to respond.
At the same time, Breitbart News sent a query to Luke Hilgemann, the state director of Americans for Prosperity, Wisconsin who gave us this exclusive interview.
Breitbart News: Why do you think the unions have lost so many members in Wisconsin, one of the birthplaces of the American labor movement?
Hilgemann: The big blue fist of organized labor in Wisconsin has lost its might along with more than half of its members. Union members woke up to the fact that organized labor had become nothing more than a tool of the left, supporting political candidates up and down the ticket. When the union dues were no longer forced, a lot of union members decided they didn’t want to belong to an organization like that.
Breitbart News: What have you heard from people who have quit the unions?
Hilgemann: The union dues were a couple of hundred bucks out of their checks every month and they had no real control about what that money was used for. A lot of people didn’t support the union candidates and they used their voice to show that by leaving the unions.
Breitbart News: I asked AFSCME for comment but they never responded, which seems to be their standard response on this subject.
Hilgemann : The unions don’t want those numbers out there but I’ll be honest; we use those numbers at every event that we do. While the unions are losing members, we’ve added over 35,000 members at Americans for Prosperity in Wisconsin in the last year; that brings us to over 125,000 members, over double the membership of AFSCME and WEAC (the Wisconsin Education Association Council) combined.
Breitbart News: Do you agree that the raucous protests in Wisconsin in 2011 seemed to be the template for the Occupy Wall Street movement?
Hilgemann: There’s no doubt hat you saw two years ago in Wisconsin was the testing ground for what became the Occupy Wall Street movement. The same organizers you saw here spread out across the country. The end result was the same, too: despite the hammering on walls and banging on drums, a majority of people just don’t believe in what these people are saying.
Breitbart News: With the recent passage of right to work in Michigan, do you see a similar fate for the union membership there?
Hilgemann: Yes and the biggest benefit that you’re going to see in Michigan is billions of dollars in savings. Here in Wisconsin, we’ve saved over two billion dollars since Governor Walker and legislatures passed Act 10. The taxpayers in Michigan are quiet now but they’ll show up when it counts on election day. These union reforms are working here in Wisconsin and they’ll work anywhere people are brave enough to stand up for them.