Public employee unions insist that dues money be deducted from members' paychecks and sent directly to union treasuries. So in practice, public employee unions are a mechanism for the involuntary transfer of taxpayers' money to the Democratic Party.
Walker's law ended this practice and gave public employees the choice of whether to pay union dues. The membership of AFSCME, the big union of state employees, fell from 62,818 to 28,785.
That's what liberal columnist E.J. Dionne was referring to when he wrote last week that Walker's laws "sought to undermine one of the Democratic Party's main sources of organization." Dionne wants continued taxpayer financing of campaigns -- for his side only.
Various progressives gnashing their teeth about the end of the world might want to consider that what was attacked in Wisconsin and evidently defeated was a particularly unappealing version of their cause. It is not as if the proposition "the poor shall be made to starve in the streets" was on the ballot and won. Rather it was rejection of the proposition that the taxpayers should underwrite indefinitely a sort of perpetually expanding and self-reinforcing government that saw itself as entitled to be insulated from the very people who were paying for it. You could be a committed democratic socialist and still think that was a bit much. The state is supposed to serve somebody; it doesn't exist for the sake of itself. But with public employee unions, it has evolved into that. Even FDR, etc. etc. It's very perverse and his little to do with serving the usual sympathetic beneficiaries of idealized state action -- the poor, etc.
I know I am being ridiculous. I am old enough and long enough around the academy to know that nobody cares less about the poor and downtrodden than the typical state (including academic) employee. They even some of them have to deal with the poor and downtrodden. They hate them the way lawyers hate clients. Actually more, or with more contempt, because these are clients that can fire them only with great difficulty. The passion in this debate is about a slice of the middle class, the highly state subsidized slice, fearing how they may fall when the subsidies are cut back. A legitimate fear, but at the end of the day, it is kinda sorta a democracy. --TS