Several months after legislation was passed curbing a majority of public sector unions’ collective bargaining rights, six groups voted for recertification with the state this week.
The vote allows six union groups to effectively reclaim their status as a bargaining unit in the state of Wisconsin.
According to a statement from the Professional Employees in Research Statistics and Analysis, their members voted unanimously for recertification.
“The vote today by PERSA members demonstrates what our union has said from the outset of these attacks; our members support their union and reject Gov. Scott Walker’s attacks to collectively bargain,” PERSA president Jeff Richter said in the statement.
Union members are required to vote every year to continue to be certified for bargaining rights.
Walker spokesperson Cullen Werwie said in a statement that workers have been given back decision-making power about their unions.
“Some workers who were previously members of the state’s largest unions have chosen not to unionize, while workers in other areas have recertified,” Werwie said.
He said workers can now make decisions about what aspects of unions were better or worse for them, particularly in the way of union dues and other potential monetary concerns.
Werwie said workers who voted to recertify could collectively bargain for their base wage, capped at the consumer price index.
“The ultimate choice and freedom was given back to public sector workers earlier this year,” Werwie said.
Still, some union organizations disagree with Werwie’s interpretation of the situation.
Nancy Witterstein, vice president of the Wisconsin Attorney’s Association, said the WAA voted to recertify because they had more than 60 percent of their bargaining members voluntarily paying dues to the organization.
“We were confident that our members felt very strongly that they wanted to continue to have our union represent them,” Witterstein said.
She said that under this certification, WAA still has limited rights that were not taken away by the legislation.
Currently, Witterstein said, this includes only the ability to bargain over wage increases.
“The state compensation plan says there will be no wage increase for all state employees for the next two years. We are prepared to bargain for a wage increase up to the consumer price index level,” Witterstein said.
Still, not all union groups voted to recertify, potentially for organizational reasons.
Jay Heck, executive director of watchdog group Common Cause in Wisconsin, said it was most likely a matter of difficultly in organizing the vote.
Heck said that since the collective bargaining bill has become law, unions must have a majority of their members vote and certify in order to continue to exist, and in some cases, it is very difficult to conduct these votes.
“It seems to be a pretty unfair way for a union to have to keep going,” Heck said.
He said recertified unions can still bargain for salary increase, but with new two-year wage freeze this right also becomes less significant.
Heck said he believes most union groups that were organized in the past would like to be again, and that it is the new process that limited their ability to do so.
“There are very few employees in the public or private sector that would argue it’s better not to have a union,” Heck said.