Walker ends public employee unions right to bargain except for salary, exempts firefighters and law enforcementWisconsin News
-- Governor Scott Walker says he wants to end the ability of state employee unions to negotiate anything but their salaries. It’s part of a larger bill he’ll introduce today to cover a $137-million revenue shortfall in the current state budget that ends June 30th.
MADISON - Governor Scott Walker says he wants to end the ability of state employee unions to negotiate anything but their salaries. It’s part of a larger bill he’ll introduce today to cover a $137-million revenue shortfall in the current state budget that ends June 30th.
Walker’s plan would stop giving the unions a say on their benefits and work rules – and they could only get pay raises up to the rate of inflation, unless voters approve higher raises in a referendum. But law enforcement and fire department unions would be exempt from these limits. Those groups supported Walker in last fall’s election.
Walker told the Associated Press that none of this should be a surprise, and quote – “The shock would be if we didn’t go forward with this.” He said it was necessary to avoid the layoffs of 6,000 state employees – and to avoid 200,000 kids from being dropped from Wisconsin’s Medicaid health programs for the poor. Walker will say more at a news conference this morning. Democrats said he was “declaring war” on union employees.
Unlike private sector unions, which are governed by federal law, state unions are governed only by a pair of state laws that are 40 years old. Walker’s proposal would also stop requiring employees to pay union dues if they don’t join. And it would wipe out the ability of UW employees to form unions – a right they won just two years ago from Democrats and former Governor Jim Doyle.
Senate Democrat Jon Erpenbach of Waunakee said Walker’s measure would remove the experience of the state’s most dedicated workers and quote, “flush it down the toilet.” But Republican finance co-chair Alberta Darling says if nothing’s done now, quote, “We’re never going to get control of labor costs.” But not all Republicans are on board. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said a lot of questions need to be asked – and he’s not sure if it has the votes to pass right now.
The budget repair bill would also make state employees pay over 12-percent of their health insurance costs and almost six-percent of their pensions. It refinances $165-million in state debt, and pushes principal payments into the next budget. Health officials would have new power to cut Medicaid costs, but the finance committee could reject their plans if it chooses. And some civil service posts would become political appointees of the governor – including chief legal counsels and agency spokesmen.