Prison guards in the Wisconsin State Employees Union voted 1,548-1,108 Thursday to leave and form their own union. The guards are now represented by the newly-created Wisconsin Association for Correctional Law Enforcement.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that the split “makes WACLE the representative for about 5,900 state security and public safety workers, a big chunk of the 22,000 members who belonged to WSEU.”
The move is the latest example of how Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining reforms are reshaping public sector unions in the state. Some have seen serious membership declines since Walker’s Act 10 ended automatic union dues deduction. State and local government workers must now affirm they want to be dues-paying members.
The prison guards left because they were unhappy with the dues WSEU demanded — $36 a month, twice what WACLE will charge — and felt the union was not being responsive enough to members’ concerns. Many were also upset with WSEU’s political spending.
The new union faces some serious hurdles though. WSEU is expected to contest the election in court.
The prison guards will also have to re-certify the union in a few months. Walker’s reforms include annual recertification votes in which at least 51 percent of the workers in the collective bargaining unit must affirm they want to remain in the union for it to continue.
“From the governor’s office on down, everybody is watching this to see if this (union) is the first domino to fall,” said Brian Cunningham, WACLE’s interim president, told the Wisconsin State Journal.