In press releases and public addresses, the Governor claimed that Act 10 was needed to balance the state budget and give state and municipal governments the tools to manage during economic crisis. There is nothing in the record to suggest prohibiting dues withholding for some, but not all, public sector employees provides an administrative savings. Nor have defendants described how this particular provision affords state and municipal governments increased flexibility to manage the economic crisis, except perhaps to suppress disfavored unions from opposing certain governmental cuts — a purpose that cannot justify the government’s selectively subsidizing union speech. Indeed, the only justification in the record for prohibiting dues withholding for general employees is limiting the speech of that class of unions. During the intense debate over Act 10, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald commented that “[i]f we win this battle, and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you’re going to find is President Obama is going to have a … much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin.” The suppression of free speech, however, is not a valid government interest.
Wisconsin Education Association Council v. Scott Walker, March 30, 2012.
Pay Raises for Gov. Walker’s Friends Thanks To Collective Bargaining Law
The law that eliminated collective bargaining for public employees also increased the number of appointments Scott Walker could make, allowing the governor to hire his friends and pay them generously. Cindy Archer, the woman whose home was raided by the FBI as part of an ongoing criminal investigation, was just one of the beneficiaries.
The governor could funnel such a huge increase into the job because earlier this year Republicans who control the Legislature went along with his plan to give him more political appointments. The change allows department secretaries to go around the normal hiring process and name whomever they want as chief counsel, communications director and legislative liaison.
Archer isn’t the only one benefiting from the new system. One employee kept the same job and saw an 18% boost in pay; another is making 10% more than what her predecessor did.
The political appointments were created in the same legislation that eliminated most collective bargaining for public employees and required them to pay more for their health care and pensions. Paying more for benefits is costing an average state employee making $50,000 a year about $4,400, or 9%. Walker insisted most employees had to pay those costs because the state is “broke.”
But by far the biggest boost has gone to the job held by Archer, who is making 65% more than the woman who held the job before her.
Archer started drawing a paycheck for the job Aug. 22 but has never shown up for it because she is on paid medical leave. Administration officials say she earned the paid leave during an earlier stint as a state employee that ended eight years ago, in 2003.
Until taking the new job, Archer was making $124,000 as Walker’s deputy administration secretary. Before that, she was Walker’s top aide when he was Milwaukee County executive.
Read the complete story here.
I support unions because I believe in basic things like safe working conditions and fair wages, and because I’m a fan of weekends and not a fan of child labor. But I also support unions because I appreciate how much they’ve done to improve working conditions for women.
Unions have pushed for equal pay for equal work, taken a stand against sexual harassment in the workplace, and helped women bargain for child care, maternity leave, and reproductive health care coverage. Union women have helped to fight these battles on behalf of all women, and for that I am grateful.
Deteriorating Working Conditions Cause Wisconsin Teacher Retirements to Double
As they face massive cuts to pay and benefits, as well as bizarre and belittling restrictions (no microwaves allowed, skirts must cover the knees…), Wisconsin teachers are retiring at an unprecedented rate. And this phenomenon isn’t limited to teachers:
In the first six months of 2011, overall public employee retirements were double that in all of either 2009 or 2010.
State agency retirements were particularly dramatic, nearly tripling from 747 in all of 2010 to 1,966 through June. Retirements from the University of Wisconsin System more than doubled, up from 480 last year to 1,091 this year. All told, 9,933 public workers had retired by the end of June, a 93% increase from 5,133 in 2010. The year before, there were 4,876 retirements.
Labor Day is going to feel a little different in Wisconsin this year.
Wisconsin Teachers' Union Lays Off 40% of Its Staff
Layoff notices have been issued to about 40% of the Wisconsin Education Association Council workforce. The complete story is linked above.
Teacher Handbooks To Replace Union Contracts
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
With the start of school approaching on Sept. 1, about two-thirds of Wisconsin’s school districts are rushing to finalize employee handbooks to replace now-extinct collective bargaining agreements that for decades outlined duties and salaries for workers.
The passage of the state’s new “Act 10” legislation - in effect for all districts that didn’t extend a contract with teachers before the passage of the law - gives administrators the ability to make sweeping changes to teachers’ pay scales, hours and working conditions without having to negotiate them with unions.
Some sacred cows are disappearing, such as teacher tenure, layoffs based on seniority and the guarantee of 10 years’ worth of post-retirement health insurance. Other big and complex changes on the horizon include new salary structures and pay-for-performance plans.
Five months after Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin pushed through a law stripping public unions of their bargaining rights, the Republican Party has paid a price. Two of the state senators who backed the law were thrown out of office by voters on Tuesday and replaced with Democrats. Mr. Walker’s opponents did not succeed in turning over the Senate, but it was still an impressive response to the governor’s arrogant overreach.
--The New York Times, Wisconsin’s Warning to Union Busters
"Will the Democrats take this as a chance to go on offense? Will national Democrats take a lesson from Wisconsin Democrats?" —Rachel Maddow.
Outstanding coverage of the FAA shutdown and union rights, plus a look back at Reagan’s firing of air traffic controllers.
Remembering the Kohler Strike
On this day in 1934, two people were killed, 40 others were injured, and the National Guard occupied Kohler, Wisconsin. Kohler Company workers were on strike to demand better hours, higher wages, and recognition of the American Federation of Labor as their collective bargaining agent. The National Guard turned to tear gas, rifles, and shotguns to break up the strike, resulting in the deaths and injuries.
According to the Wisconsin Historical Society:
Owner Walter Kohler blamed Communists and outside agitators for the violence, while union leaders blamed Kohler exclusively. Not settled until 1941, the strike marked the beginning of what was to become a prolonged struggle between the Kohler Company and organized labor in Wisconsin; a second Kohler strike lasted from 1954 to 1965.
Check out the original 1934 coverage in the Sheboygan Press here.