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Wisconsin Governor signs union-busting bill into law

By SCOTT BAUER
March 12, 2011

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signs the piece of paper that destroys public employee unions in Wisconsin (Reuters)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Friday signed into law the proposal that eliminates most union rights for public employees, quietly concluding a debate that provoked three weeks of loud, relentless protests at the Capitol.

Walker, the 43-year-old son of a preacher who has swiftly become one of the most polarizing politicians in the country, signed the legislation in private Friday morning. He planned a ceremonial signing later in the day.

The governor insisted the proposal was necessary to balance the state budget, and he never backed down, even after 14 Senate Democrats fled the state in an attempt to block the bill. The drama touched off an intense national debate over labor rights for public employees.

Parts of the fight were sure to continue in the courts and in the battle over the broader state budget.

On Friday, the Democratic executive of Dane County asked a court to find passage of the law to be unconstitutional, arguing in part that it was adopted illegally without the required quorum. A judge denied an emergency request to block the measure and scheduled a longer hearing for Wednesday.

The law does not take effect until the secretary of state issues an official notice that it has been enacted, and the notice is published in the Madison newspaper. The earliest that could happen is Saturday.

Walker’s success was a key victory for Republicans who have targeted unions in efforts to slash government spending.

Labor leaders and Democrats vowed to use the setback to fire up their supporters across the country and mount a counterattack against the GOP at the ballot box in 2012.

Democrats said the battle with Walker helped them raise nearly $1 million in a matter of days, and efforts to recall Republican state senators who sided with Walker were gaining momentum.

Walker, who has sharply divided the state just 10 weeks into his term, remained defiant Friday, issuing a message of his own seeking donations from supporters.

“The voters of Wisconsin didn’t elect me to pass the buck or run away from a tough fight,” said the governor, who asked for donations starting at $100 and said he hoped to reach $150,000 within a month.

“They elected me to get the job done. They elected me to get Wisconsin working again,” Walker said. “I won’t let their intimidation tactics stop us from turning our Wisconsin around.”

The measure passed both chambers of the Republican-led state Legislature earlier this week. The Senate cleared the way for passage with a surprise move Wednesday that allowed lawmakers to approve the bill without any Democratic senators present. The state’s Assembly followed suit Thursday.

In addition to ending collective bargaining, the law forces state workers to pay more for their pensions and health care benefits — changes that will save an estimated $30 million to help pay down a budget shortfall project to be $137 million by July 1. The higher payments for state workers will take effect over the coming weeks.

But much more turmoil lies ahead.

Lawmakers have not even started to debate Walker’s two-year budget, which calls for cutting schools and local governments by more than $1 billion.

Interest in the budget is so high, the Republican leader of the state Senate said public hearings may be held at arenas in Milwaukee and Madison that each hold 18,000 people.

Walker repeatedly argued that ending collective bargaining would give local governments much-needed flexibility to confront the cuts in state aid that will be necessary to fix Wisconsin’s deficit, which is expected to grow to $3.6 billion deficit over two years.

Walker also said his plan would avoid the need for any furloughs or layoffs. He issued a notice last week warning that up to 1,500 workers could be laid off if the bill failed. But just before signing the measure Friday, Walker rescinded the notice.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Republicans passed the law to fulfill campaign promises.

“It shouldn’t have taken two years for the recession to finally affect the government, but the public sector is finally sharing in the pain, albeit with modest concessions,” Fitzgerald said.

It was not the first time state workers had been asked to sacrifice. Walker’s Democratic predecessor, Gov. Jim Doyle, ordered 16 unpaid days off for state workers over the past two years, amounting to a 3 percent pay cut.

The changes contained in Walker’s law amount to an average 8 percent pay cut.

The political drama surrounding the proposal was dominated by tens of thousands of protesters who repeatedly filled the Capitol for weeks, carrying signs, chanting slogan, shouting at lawmakers and often sleeping on the marble floors.

Dozens of protesters returned to the Capitol on Friday, shouting “Recall Walker!” Another large rally was planned for Saturday.

Despite the protests, Walker has said, he believes there is a “quiet majority” who back his agenda.

Democrats said Walker didn’t do enough to compromise with them. Walker said it was the Democrats who were not serious about negotiating a deal.

In the end, Walker got most of what he wanted.

The governor, who won election in November with 52 percent of the vote, has a history of being combative with political opponents.

As Milwaukee County executive for eight years before being elected governor, Walker never proposed a higher property tax levy than what was approved.

To pay for that, he repeatedly sought to cut the wages and benefits of county workers but was blocked by the unions and the Democratic-controlled county board.

Now he has a Republican-controlled Legislature backing him all the way.

“I’ve always been bold,” Walker said in an interview last month. “I’ve been bold at the county, which is why there’s always been a lot of passion there for folks who supported me and those who opposed me. And I’m bold here, too.”

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

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8 Responses to Wisconsin Governor signs union-busting bill into law

  1. David

    March 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Interesting and revealing wording.

    “They [the voters] elected me to get the job done. They elected me to get Wisconsin working again,” Walker said. “I won’t let their [again, the voters] intimidation tactics stop us from turning our Wisconsin around.”

  2. NightWisp

    March 13, 2011 at 1:44 am

    You Know. There is NOT a thing stopping those teachers from joining a union and paying union dues. If the unions are so great, they should. If the Unions are so great why are the Union thugs worried?

    My experience with Unions is, they take dues, Never support who I supported and never supported me. But I had to join, local, State AND National Unions to have insurance coverage if I were sued for doing my job. Kind of like Physicians malpractice coverage from sue happy patients.

    I never even cleared 1000 a month teaching school then. And 20 years later, barely cleared that much a month working for the State.

    I am NOT in sympathy with these over paid teachers who walked out on wildcat strike. You should have been doing your jobs. You should really be fired. I would have been.

    You broke your contracts. If I had been Governor Walker, i would have fired the lot of you. There are real teachers looking for jobs.

    As to bussed in union thugs. We in other states will take care of you when our turn comes.

    • Carl Nemo

      March 13, 2011 at 2:38 am

      Hi Nightwisp,

      What working people seem to forget is that without any union, guild, or professional association to represent their interests they are at the mercy of their employers who will absolutely exploit their respective situations.

      It’s simply business and the bottomline is to provide a maximum return for the stockholders. Of course state government represents the taxpayers while governments are not “profit centers”, but simply parasites on the tax base as well as the employees that work for the government, so it’s classed as a ‘special case’. The only stricture in government based contracts are that the employees should not have the right to strike if it represents hazard to the community or state, such as police, firemen, garbage collectors, water and sewer treatment facilities; ie., those functions that if shut down would represent a threat to public safety and health. This doesn’t preclude them engaging in a work ‘slowdown’.

      Somewhere there has to be a happy medium between representation and abuse thereof, relative to the employer albeit corporate or government based.

      A bad union can be worse than the same for a company or government to which people are paying dues for representation.

      The problem with union members is they pay their dues then fall asleep at the wheel relative to attending union meetings and insuring their union is not commandeered by professional union types who exploit the situation for their personal gain and benefit. Successful unions are no different than a successful government which requires participation in the process too; I.E., of, by and for the people. We see what has happened to America as a function of voters lack of participatory interest in such which reminds me of a refrain from Yeats early 19th century poem post WWI, “The Second Coming”,…”The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity”…!

      The steward structure is the most important aspect to members along with an expeditious and effective grievance process which represents give and take on the part of both parties; ie., the employer vs. the employee. Instead non-union represented employees have to rely on corporate friendly biased “Human Resource” functions which are compromised by the very hand that feeds them; i.e, the corporation and not the agrieved employee.

      What’s tragic about these types of engineered situations is that those who aren’t union represented get pleasure in watching those that are represented, who enjoy better wages get screwed over by Wisconsin type scenarios, in other words bringing people ‘down’ to their level of misery, when instead they should side with the union movement which could bring them up too from their abject wage and job situations. Instead it encourages a great leveling process to the dowward side for all; ie, a “divide and conquer” tactic on the part of the corporate and government usurpers.

      Carl Nemo **==

  3. bogofree

    March 13, 2011 at 10:34 am

    As a former teacher I repeatedly requested how much of my dues was being given to PAC’s and which ones. I had numerous correspondence with the local, state and NEA and NEVER received an answer. $700 a year for what amounted to a tax write off.

    The protectionism of incompetents by the unions is legendary and education is certainly not exempt. Getting tenure is virtually a kiss for a lifetime job. And this goes right down the road in the public sector. I just love to read in the paper about a public worker being “suspended with pay” while an investigation takes place. IMHO the lever has swung way in the wrong direction and maybe Wisconsin will mark a return to a balance.

    Now Joe and Jane Public look at the package that educators and other public employees are given in health care and pensions and what is delivered to Joe and Jane is well overshadowed and just those cost are killing local budgets. What exactly is a fair share? I paid 15% and as a retiree I pay 17.5% and that is a bargain compared to the dreaded private sector. In Wisconsin they pay substantially less.

    For decades the public sector has had generous expansion of benefits – not necessarily salaries – to win the votes (money) of the membership. Finally the fiscal tsunami has hit when the burden can no longer be absorbed by Joe and Jane who view themselves as taxpayers supporting tax getters.

  4. Danny Adams

    March 13, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    I keep hearing about “overpaid” teachers in Wisconsin (and elsewhere), like the comment above. Exactly what kind of salary range are they making? I have yet to see any figures–just an anecdote about one toll worker making $100,000. But as the saying goes, the plural of anecdote is not data.

    • NightWisp

      March 14, 2011 at 2:01 am

      More than I was paid to teach 6 – 8 classes a day with 35 -43 kids per classroom ( built to hold 24). No planning period. No potty break and lunch with students. And a school board that considered you their property 24/7 /365.

      Many school years I was given a box of chalk and a ream of paper to teach. . One year I had kids sitting in the floor at card board boxes.

      And that was WITH Union negotiations.

      They negotiated small classes with elementary and high school class sizes. Planning periods.. Potty breaks, and lunches without students . The burden to give these fine working conditions to them to was shouldered by the Junior high 7 – 9 th grade teachers. No accreditation, no perks, no breathing room.

      Merit pay allowed one to work more hours for the money. If you were one of the chosen few.
      Most years we had no pay raises.

      So much for unions and equal treatment for all.

      • Almandine

        March 14, 2011 at 8:52 am

        Smaller class sizes = more dues.

  5. bogofree

    March 14, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Danny

    My final salary in 2006 was 73K. The pension speaks for itself as I had 14 years in the retirement fund and collect $400 more per month on that then I do for 30 years of qualified earnings under SS and 15 of those years I maxed out.

    Now for a salary record it is available through your local government. The pay will be listed regarding step increases and for educational levels. It varies from community to community.

    Unfortunately money to education does not go into improving education – smaller class sizes, technology upgrades, innovative programs but simply to pay benefits and salary.

    As far as the toll workers just do a Google on Massachusetts toll takers and you will see. Also you may wish to research parking lot attendants receiving 100K a year with OT on a base pay of 55K. I have posted both on several occasions.