UW System pulls plug on all employee organizations

On Thursday, UW System notified all UW employee organizations that it would stop collecting dues effective in August. This will affect PROFS, ASPRO, WUU, and the Council for Supervisory Non-Classified Staff as well as the unions (AFSCME, TAA, etc.). (Note: UW Madison administration was not notified of this action until after the fact.)

While it had been anticipated that the state would end the deduction for the unions, the end of the deduction for organizations that do not engage in collective bargaining comes as a surprise. In Walker’s initial budget, the prohibiting language was limited to “labor organizations” which are defined as “an organization that engages in collective bargaining.”  However, when the bill was amended in Joint Finance a more expansive amendment was added that prohibited dues deduction for any employee organization other than those representing public safety employees.

The unions have been preparing for the end of their dues deduction for some time. Their response has been to ask their members for monthly bank or credit card deductions. (Bank deductions are preferable because of fewer problems of changes in credit card numbers.) It is too early to tell their level of success but predictably, many members are not enthusiastic about signing an authorization for a 1% reduction in pay at the same time they are suffering a 10% reduction in pay.

In contrast, the voluntary organizations such as PROFS, WUU , ASPRO charge only nominal fees of one-tenth of 1% or in some cases only $5. Additionally, their memberships, as a whole, have significantly higher incomes.

The real issue here, however, is organization. We need it, and our employer, the State of Wisconsin, is doing everything possible to prevent organization or even effective participation of an opponent. Whether it requires photo ID of voters, defunding potentially oppositional non-profits or stripping the rights of employee organizations- the tactics change but the strategy is consistent.

If it hasn’t been clear yet to faculty and academic staff that we are in the same boat as our campus colleagues with blue and pink collars, this should be the final piece of evidence. The end of the dues deduction for non-bargaining employee organization is another message that from the perspective of the new rulers at the other end of State St. we are a single indistinguishable mass. We are the enemy that must be disenfranchised by whatever means are at hand.

Is it obvious that our response to this attack must be to join every available organization and pay the dues? What are less clear are the strategies of campus organizations. How shall we organize? What shall we do?

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