The deeper decline of unions in Wisconsin is the direct result of two state policy actions.
In 2011, despite an outpouring of organized support for public sector bargaining rights, the state legislature passed Act 10 which restructured the terms of public sector unionization, reducing public unions’ power, relevance, and membership. A few years later, the state also enacted “right-to-work” legislation, a blow to private sector unionization as well.
The structure of Act 10 does not actually prohibit the existence of public sector unions. Rather, it restructures the rules around them, limiting their power and relevance and increasing the burden of keeping them going. More specifically, Act 10 limits the bargaining of public-sector unions to only wage and wage increases, which cannot be larger than inflation. This obviously constrains wage negotiations, and leaves some of the most important issues to workers — safety, scheduling, and benefits – off the table. Employers are not allowed to collect union dues in paychecks, even when workers demonstrate and document interest in such collection.