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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

Labor's Dead Tree... Is Dead

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On RightWisconsin today:

Yeah, the paper misspells its headline in its last issue. But let’s not get distracted from the fact that this is a big deal.

This is a major milestone in the long slow, inexorable decline of labor here.

The Milwaukee Labor Press newspaper, which for 73 years served as "the voice of Milwaukee labor," has printed its final edition.

The last issue of the tabloid-sized publication arrived in the mail over the weekend at the homes of 44,000 union-member subscribers throughout Milwaukee.

"As we put this paper to bed, our readers should understand that this isn't the death of the voice of organized labor," wrote Sheila Cochran, the chief operating officer of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, which published the paper.

She’s right that the death of the paper is not the death of organized labor’s voice. But it’s also not a sign of its robust health. In many ways, the newspaper had become as obsolete as the unions themselves... an artifact of another era.

Consider that at its peak, The Milwaukee Labor Press had 150,000 "subscribers." At its demise, it was sending out less than a third as many copies. And few of those were subscribers in the usual sense. As the story makes clear, the paper – a reliably turgid vehicle of unionist propaganda – was subsidized by the unions and its demise was yet another symptom of their decline. 

It is also a sign that Act 10 continues to work:
 
"With the loss of union membership, there's no longer the support needed to subsidize the paper, she said. Unions affiliated with the labor council paid for their members to get the paper.
 
"Since Act 10 legislation limited collective bargaining by public-sector unions, there's been a loss of about 10,000 union members, she said"

What the story doesn’t mention is that the loss of union membership is a result of workers finally being given a choice whether they want to join the union. When union membership was mandatory, the unions count on a steady flow of dues money they could use to prop up the paper. 

Now that those workers are free to choose, they are apparently choosing in big numbers to spend their money elsewhere.

 

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