Dues Issues Stall Wisconsin Union Merger For a Year

Yesterday I posted the breaking news that the Wisconsin Education Association Council and AFT-Wisconsin postponed their scheduled votes to merge the two unions into one – Wisconsin Together.

The WEAC statement was deliberately vague, saying only that “member forums showed more information was sought before going ahead with a vote.” AFT-Wisconsin president Kim Kohlhaas was much more forthcoming with her memo about the situation:

As you know, a vote on merger was originally scheduled to take place in April at both the WEAC and AFT-W conventions. Last Saturday, WEAC’s Board of Directors voted to postpone a full merger vote.

One key reason the WEAC Board cited for this difficult decision was member concerns regarding the different dues structures of AFT-W and WEAC. Under the original plan for a possible merger, this issue would have been resolved over a two-year trial period once both unions had approved merger. Instead, a special committee will now be put in place with representatives from both organizations. The committee’s job will be addressing how to harmonize our two unions’ different systems into one fair, effective dues structure that ensures all members get the staff and services they need. AFT-W will take full part in this committee, which is slated to make its recommendations by the end of 2014. Based on this new timetable, a merger vote then could take place in early 2015.

I don’t know who complained, but they had enough clout to make the reasonable demand that the merged union’s dues structure and levels be determined before the merger takes place, and not after.

WEAC’s current structure is more complex than that of a typical NEA state affiliate, since it has different dues levels for large urban locals and those locals that fall under its regional divisions. Melding all that with AFT-W’s dues structure was always going to be problematic, and it appears a majority on the WEAC board of directors preferred not to punt the discussion until 2015.

I don’t believe this will derail the merger, but a year’s delay in the vote is a big setback. A lot can happen between now and next year.


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