The Budget Repair Bill…What Exactly Does it Say?
1. Public employees would be required to contribute 5.8% of their salaries toward their retirement funds
2. Public employees would be required to pay 12.6% of their health insurance premiums. Actually, that’s how this is publicized. What the document actually says is that public employers can pay a maximum of 87.4% of insurance premiums, which doesn’t require them to pay any.
3. Collectively these concessions would amount to an 8-10% cut in pay for all public employees.
4. The bill repeals the authority of the following groups to collectively bargain:
a. Home health care workers under the Medicaid program
b. Family child care workers
c. University of WI hospital and clinic employees
5. These groups are exempt from any collective bargaining changes:
c. State patrol
6. For all other public employees, including the following, the bill limits collective bargaining to wage negotiation only.
b. Prison guards
c. DNR employees
d. Social workers
e. Trash collectors
f. Snow removal crews
7. This “wage negotiation”, the only surviving entity to collective bargaining, applies only to base wage negotiations. Total wage increases could not exceed a cap based on the consumer price index , which currently would give public employees a 1% increase in pay.
8. Public employers would not be allowed to offer pay raises above this cap unless approved by referendum.
9. The collective bargaining rights lost:
a. Contracts are limited to one year
b. Wages would be frozen until the new contract is settled
c. Collective bargaining units are required to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union
d. Employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues
e. Members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues
10. If the Governor declares a state of emergency, the bill authorizes the termination of any employees that are absent for three days without approval of the employer. It also authorizes the termination of any employees that participate in an organized action to stop or slow work.
Why Are the Unions of Some Groups Protected?
Walker openly said it is because he knew he might need their services once he unveiled his repair bill. If that is the case, wouldn’t he need prison guards as well? It must just be coincidence that firefighters, policemen, and the state patrol all publicly endorsed Walker in the campaign. The prison guards endorsed Barrett.
1. This is a process of voluntary, respectful negotiations between employers and the union representative(s) of the employees.
2. The agreements regulate the following aspects of employment:
a. Working conditions
b. Wage scales
c. Working hours
3. For teachers this would also include class sizes, prep time, personal days, and course loads.
4. These negotiations result in a contract by which both sides must abide.
5. For teachers in Wisconsin, these negotiations almost always include salary concessions based on the rising cost of insurance.
6. From 1993 to 2009, the Qualified Economic Offer (QEO) limited the pay and benefits for K-12 teachers to a combined increase of 3.8%.
7. As rising health insurance costs ate up most of the 3.8%, teacher salaries in Wisconsin have steadily declined when adjusted for inflation. Wisconsin teacher salaries currently rank 24th in the nation.
What the Protest is About
1. Leaders of the AFL have been trying to sit down at the bargaining table with Scott Walker since his swear-in. He has refused every request.
2. The teacher’s union alone offered him $100 million dollars before the bill came out and he turned it down.
3. Since then, we have said over and over and over that we will accept the concessions but we refuse to lose our voice.
4. This is called the “Budget Repair Bill”, what does this have to do with union busting? THAT is the reason the democratic senators left.
5. Some 200,000 peaceful protests have taken place at the capitol in the first 9 days after the release of the bill.
Unions and the Middle Class
The following is an excerpt from an article that sums up what I’ve read from many different sources.
Regardless of your opinion of unions, love them or hate them, the fact is that labor unions created our middle class. The unions established the 40 hour work week, fair pay for a reasonable day’s work, vacations, work place safety and protected our children from child labor abuses.
This is not someone’s opinion; it’s our nation’s history.
It was in 1983 that the numbers of unionized workers began to decrease in our country. At that time about 20 percent of our work force was unionized. Today less than 11 percent is unionized, about half.
During this same period, the salary gap between the CEO and the lowest paid employee of a company widened significantly. In 1983 the average CEO earned 50 times more than the lowest paid employee of the same company.
Today that gap is over 550 times. That means that about half way through the first work day in a year, the CEO of that company has earned more than the lowest paid employee will earn for the entire year.
The recent ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court that allowed businesses to make unlimited, anonymous contributions to our politicians, set the stage for the ultra rich to destroy our unions, and eventually, our middle class.
The Division of the People
Scott Walker has very skillfully pitted the private and public employees of our state, when all of us should be concerned with what is going on here. We are no different than they are, together we are the middle class. We are all little people, living paycheck to paycheck. Their anger is directed at the wrong group.
I was in Madison on Saturday, when 70,000 people converged on the Capitol. Some 3,000 of these were pro-Walker demonstrators. Every single one of them talked about the money, they do not seem to understand what this protest is about.
Some of their signs….
“You don’t care about this country! “
“Shame on you and your selfishness!”
“Sorry I couldn’t get here until today, Scott, I was working all week paying for union greed!”
If you look at Walker’s propaganda tactics, it is all about trying to anger the private sector. His television ads say “It’s time they paid just like the rest of us”, and “As a taxpayer, I don’t think they should get away with it anymore!”
Why would Walker continue to air these toxic ads when the unions agreed to the concessions? Why doesn’t he talk about collective bargaining? He uses the money piece because he can incite people with it. Because he wants the private sector to think that while they are all suffering in this recession, public employees are living the high life. It’s a message that is easily translated into, “this is their fault”.
And he is also very careful to always refer to us as public employees. He never uses the words teacher, social worker, firefighter, policeman, nurse, trash collector…all those professions that serve the state.
Scott Walker has YET to answer the question, “What does collective bargaining have to do with repairing the budget?” He doesn’t respond because the answer is unacceptable. With his pending budget cuts, he needs to bust unions in order for schools to stay open.
The Budget Cuts
1. Walker was supposed to unveil his budget plan on Tuesday, Feb. 25, but he has postponed it until the bill is settled. He may still speak about it but will not release any numbers.
2. Some of it has been leaked and we can probably expect at least the following:
a. A decrease in educational funds by $500 per student.
b. The revocation of Title IX funding, which provides for children of poverty and disadvantage. The Milwaukee Public Schools are the recipients of the largest amount of these funds. (If both these cuts take place, the Green Bay Public Schools will be facing a deficit of $18 million)
c. An increase in state university tuition costs by 25%.
3. Fitzgerald, one of the republican senators, when asked if there were any chance that they might reconsider their position responded, “The republicans remain rock solid in support of Walker’s plan. The new budget slashes spending on public schools and municipal services by 1 billion dollars or more. Employers will need to make cuts without bargaining with employees.” That is word for word.
What This Bill Will Do to Education in Wisconsin
1. Although the actual amounts have yet to be revealed, Walker has warned school districts to expect significant cuts. He reasons that they should be able to absorb this loss of funding with the money they save by having teachers pay more of the districts’ costs. Those concessions could save as much as $300 of this per student loss, but the remaining $200 would have to be found elsewhere.
2. The more immediate problem is that many districts have contracts with teachers that extend as long as four years out. How can he drastically cut district funding when districts are still obliged to pay their teachers? They will have no choice but to lay off teachers. Didn’t he say he was doing all this to save jobs and avoid layoffs?
3. Without a union, and without any money, districts could be forced to lay off their most experienced and/or highest educated teachers. They will be forced to increase class sizes, cut courses, cut programs, and eliminate prep time and personal days for teachers. ALL of these result in lower quality education in Wisconsin. This WILL hurt kids.
4. Quality education requires quality teachers. To attract quality people to this profession and to this state, they need to treat teachers fairly and compensate them for their hard work. The hard work they do with the children of our state, and the long hours they put in outside the school day. I doubt there are many teachers outside Wisconsin right now wishing they worked here.
5. The five lowest achieving states on the ACT and SAT are the only five with non-unionized teachers. Wisconsin currently ranks #2.
6. Every citizen of this state should take note that Scott Walker has not uttered a single word about maintaining high quality education in Wisconsin.
Walker’s History in Milwaukee
If Wisconsin citizens learn any lesson from this, it should be to get informed and get involved. This radicalism should be no surprise given the fact that he did exactly the same thing in his previous position.
In Walker’s first term as Milwaukee’s County Executive, he announced layoffs that decimated the county's public parks staff and also reduced the number of county social workers, corrections officers and janitors. As a result, park bathrooms were shuttered and pools were closed. Trash was piled up so high in the Milwaukee County Courthouse that visitors had to sidestep apple cores and coffee cups, and some judges resorted to cleaning toilets, a local newspaper reported.
Rich Abelson, executive director of AFSCME District Council 48, Milwaukee's largest union, said , "The result of his tenure is an absolute devastation of the programs and services in Milwaukee County."
The union filed multiple lawsuits against Walker over the years for unfair labor practices. Those unfair practices included favoritism toward select groups, exactly as he has shown in this bill. He was found guilty of doing so, but he was already elected governor by the time the judgment was made. He is currently appealing that ruling.
Why Other States Would Want to Do the Same
It is no coincidence that the other states who would like to impose this radical change all have Republican governors. Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa and Tennessee are looking to curtail or even eliminate collective bargaining rights for state and local government workers.
Unions have been the biggest sources of financial and grass roots organizational support for Democrats and have long been a target of business-backed Republicans. Unions are also extremely successful at getting voters to the polls.
Unions were the only liberal groups to make the top 10 list of groups spending money on the 2010 election outside of the more regulated political party system, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Hence the national interest in the events at our Capitol this last week. This has become ground zero for the battle to save union rights. On Sunday, $4 million poured into the state of Wisconsin to support the fight to save our collective voice. In Madison on Saturday the trades union (not targeted in the bill) served free brats to demonstrators all day, volunteering in the cold. A local pizza pub gave away free pizza all night, donated by groups from 30 states and 5 countries, including Egypt, Korea, and Canada.
This is history in the making. What happens here will set the precedent for all other states.
It Isn’t About the Money but Let’s Be Honest, That Hurts
1. Through collective bargaining, the insurance and pension benefits of public employees have been bought and paid for. We have left salaries on every bargaining table to maintain them. Wisconsin needs to pay its debts, no one argues that. But that debt should be absorbed by everyone that lives in Wisconsin. The salaries and benefits of public employees did not cause this deficit.
2. For me personally, this means a salary cut of about $6,000. Gross. I will pay this every year for the rest of my career. And with Walker’s caps on salary increase it will probably take me 10 years to get back to where I am now. If I work another 15 years, I will have contributed $90,000 to Wisconsin’s debt. If I manage to get any raises in there this contribution to the state will be even greater, because those raises will be on a lower base.
3. Still, I will make it. There are others who won’t. I have a friend who is a master’s educated teacher with 10 years of experience. He has 3 small children and his wife stays home to care for them. With this salary cut, their family will qualify for WIC. Well, actually, they would qualify if the IRS recognized this salary reduction. But they won’t see it because we will still earn the same salary, we just have to fork over our “contribution” right off the top. This accounting method also disqualifies families from receiving any reduced income support.
4. Teachers are among the highest paid public employees. However, teachers are the only public employees required to have a four-year college degree. The average cost of a college degree is $20,000 per year. To move up on the pay scale, teachers can earn a master’s degree plus 30 additional graduate credits. Graduate credits usually range between $400 and $800 per credit.
5. To reach the top of the pay scale (in my district), a teacher needs to take 66 graduate credits. A teacher reaching that right now would have spent $113,000 on their education (if we use $500 per graduate credit and graduation in 4 years, both underestimates).
6. Teachers are not the only ones affected. I met a jail receptionist who makes $10.50 an hour, which is already poverty level. Should she be forced to pay down Wisconsin’s debt? I met a social worker who makes $27,000 a year and is a single mother to two children. Should she?
The people who plow our streets, on evenings and weekends and holidays…is there any reason they should be more responsible for Wisconsin’s debt than any private sector employee?
7. This will be a serious financial hardship for tens of thousands of people. Many, many families will lose their homes, guaranteed. But at least Scott Walker will have kept his promise…he did not raise taxes.