By Victor Skinner

MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin’s public sector labor unions are reeling from a massive loss of members since Gov. Scott Walker’s Act 10 reforms curbed their ability to collectively bargain, and the state’s Big Labor bosses fear the trend will spread nationwide if the governor survives the recall next week.

“ … (A) victory for the governor, who has been leading his Democratic opponent in recent polls, would amount to an endorsement of an effort to curtail public-sector unions, which have been a pillar of strength for organized labor while private-sector membership has dwindled,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“That could mean sharp losses that some Wisconsin public-worker unions have experienced is a harbinger of similar unions’ future nationwide, union leaders fear. Failure to oust Walker and overturn the Wisconsin law ‘spells doom,’ said Bryan Kennedy, the American Federation of Teachers’ Wisconsin president.”

The Journal reports that workers have left Wisconsin’s public-sector labor unions in droves over the past year, mostly because of an Act 10 provision that prohibited employers from automatically deducting membership dues from employee paychecks. Union representatives apparently haven’t been very successful in convincing members to voluntarily pay their dues. And when they don’t pay, union bosses are reportedly kicking their members to the curb.

“Wisconsin membership in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – the state’s second-largest public-sector union after the National Education Association, which represents teachers – fell to 28,745 in February from 62,818 in March 2011, according to a person who has viewed AFSCME’s figures,” the Journal reports.

“Much of that decline came from AFSCME Council 24, which represents Wisconsin state workers, whose membership plunged by two-thirds to 7,100 from 22,300 last year.”