The Question We Should Ask About Wisconsin Teacher Unions

Under Governor Scott Walker’s Act 10, passed in 2010, unions in Wisconsin must be recertified every year. They do this by conducting a vote of the workers and at least 50% must vote in the affirmative for the union to receive recertification. Before Walker, Wisconsin was one of many states that required union membership for employees to work. They didn’t have a choice. If they wanted to work in an industry with a union, they had to join the union. Walker eliminated that law with Act 10 (known as a right-to-work law).

Requiring workers to join a union may seem ridiculous at first, but it solves a very difficult problem: free riding. Without such a law, many workers would choose not to join a union, but would still benefit from its representation. The union would negotiate for everyone, but not everyone would pay dues. This incentives workers to forego membership and reap the benefits. But as more and more people rationally choose to free ride, the union becomes weaker and weaker. Eventually it has no power and the workers all lose. That’s why big business is such a big proponent of right-to-work laws. They destroy unions.

So it’s not surprising to find out that in the aftermath of Act 10, teachers unions are falling apart in Wisconsin:

Today, teachers in Kenosha, Wis., voted to decertify their union, the Kenosha Education Association, by a margin of nearly two to one. Only 37 percent of the teachers opted to retain the union in an election made possible by the labor reforms enacted under Gov. Scott Walker (R). The result goes to show that when workers have a choice on whether to join a union instead of being forced into one by law, they often choose to vote down the union.

That’s from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative organization focused on limited government, but it misses the most important question: did workers vote to decertify because they didn’t want a union or because they wanted to free ride off others? It’s not a surprise at all that unions are falling part. That was guaranteed to happen. The question is whether it’s because of free riding or not. Town Hall’s Mary Katherine Ham runs through a bunch of stories celebrating the fall of Wisconsin unions, but none poses this important question either.

I’m more sympathetic to the right-to-work argument than most liberals I know. I cringe at the idea that in order to be a teacher in many states, you must join the union. But I also understand that such rules solve the practical problem of free riding. The evidence is pretty solid that right-to-work laws weaken unions, but if workers would rather that be the case, then I certainly respect their freedom to choose that. But if most workers value unions and are not joining just so that they can free ride, then laws requiring union membership make a lot of sense. That’s what we need to figure out in Wisconsin, but no one is asking the right question.


Daily Sports Roundup 1/1/08

It has been a pretty big day in sports so let’s get to the stories:

Penguins Win Winter Classic: The Pittsburgh Penguins won the first ever NHL Winter Classic 2-1 in shootout over the Buffalo Sabres. The game was held outdoors in the Buffalo Bills football stadium. This was the first ever pro hockey game held outdoors in the United States and the weather did not agree. A mix of snow, sleet, and rain covered the ice for almost the entire game and forced Zambonis to redo the ice during the middle of each period. The puck moved slower and players had to battle the wind, yet the event was a huge success. Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout to give the Penguins’ the win and jumped towards his bench in celebration when the puck hit the back of the net. 71,217 people braved the elements to see the NHL’s first ever Ice Bowl. Fans loved the game and created an energetic atmosphere that players loved. Watching it on TV, the ice looked small in the huge stadium, but it was a great game and I could feel the energy in the air.

Non-BCS Bowl Games: New Years has brought plenty of great bowl games today including the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl. First, though, was the Capital One Bowl where Michigan defeated Florida 42-35. It is a sweet ending for Michigan who lost to Appalachian State earlier this year, erasing any hopes for a National Championship. The Wolverines came out on top in Lloyd Carr’s final game and will hopefully move back into the Top 25 after beating number 12 Florida. In the Cotton Bowl, number 6 Missouri destroyed Arkansas in what could have been Darren McFadden’s final collegiate game. McFadden ran for 105 yards and a touchdown, but was not happy with the result. “We had a bad game. You don’t want to lose a bowl game. You only have fun when you win a bowl game” McFadden said. He has not stated whether he is going pro or not, but most scouts expect McFadden to forgo his senior year and enter the NFL Draft. Also today, number 16 Tennessee faced off against number 18 Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl. Tennessee finished the year at 10-4, the Vollunteer’s first 10 win season since 2004. Led by Quarterback Erik Ainge, Tennessee had 365 yards passing with Josh Briscoe receiving 7 of those passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. Continue reading “Daily Sports Roundup 1/1/08”

Daily Sports Roundup 12/31/07

Happy New Years Eve to all of my readers. This New Years Eve has also seen a fair amount of sports news, so let’s get to it:

Ravens Fire Billick:The Baltimore Ravens fired head coach Brian Billick today, after the Ravens finished the year at 5-11. After a 13-3 season last year, the Ravens underachieved this year and Billick has taken a lot of the blame. The team even lost nine consecutive games before finishing with a 27-21 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday. Since the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000, they have won only one playoff game. Less than a year ago, Billick received a contract extension through the 2010 season and stated a couple weeks ago that he would be back for 2008. Owner Steve Bisciotti had other ideas. “I just changed my mind. I can’t explain it to you. It’s the toughest decision I’ve had to make” the owner said Monday. The Ravens were a disappointment this year and someone had to take the fall. Unfortunately, it was Billick’s turn.

McGrady Out For A Few Weeks:Though it looked like the injury would only need a couple days to heal, Tracy McGrady’s left knee has not gotten any better. The Houston Rockets are coming to a tough stretch in their schedule playing at both Boston and Orlando this week. It looks like McGrady will miss those games and more as he could be out as many as three weeks. Continue reading “Daily Sports Roundup 12/31/07”