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During former Gov. Scott Walker’s tenure, the passage of Act 10 prohibited employers from deducting “labor organization dues from a general employee’s earnings.” Consequently, Wisconsin union members have to separately pay their union dues. 

Enacted in 2011, the law limited collective bargaining for a majority of Wisconsin’s public sector employees, including teachers. Those restrictions included eliminating dues check-off systems. Walker touted the measure as a way for employees who want to opt out of their unions to save money.

Several challenges were raised about the legality of the measure, but the Wisconsin Supreme Court ultimately upheld the entirety of Act 10 in a 2014 ruling.

Experts have pointed to the elimination of dues check-off systems as a contributing factor to shrinking union membership. Wisconsin’s union membership decreased from 13.3% in 2011 when Act 10 was enacted to 7.9% in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


Wisconsin State Legislature: Wisconsin Legislature: 2011 Wisconsin Act 10

PolitiFact: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says government workers in Wisconsin pay $500 to $1,000 per year in union dues

State Bar of Wisconsin: Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Act 10, Ends Collective Bargaining Saga for Now

US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Union affiliation of employed wage and salary workers in Wisconsin, annual averages, 2011–2021

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Erin Gretzinger / Wisconsin WatchReporting Intern

Erin Gretzinger joined Wisconsin Watch as a reporting intern in May 2022. She is a journalism and French major at UW-Madison and will graduate in spring 2023. Erin previously worked for the Wisconsin State Journal as a reporting intern and served as the 2021-22 editor-in-chief at The Badger Herald. She is a recipient of the Jon Wolman Scholarship, the Sigrid Schultz Scholarship and the Joseph Sicherman Award Fund for her academic and reporting work.