Governor proposes ending most collective bargaining for teachers, public employeesWisconsin News
Plan would only allow state and local public employee unions (including teachers unions) to negotiate their wages – and nothing more than the rate of inflation, unless voters approve higher raises in referendums.
With extra security at his side, Governor Scott Walker said Friday that thousands of state employees would have to be laid off if he and the Legislature do not remove almost all bargaining power from public employee and teachers unions.
Four Capitol police officers were at the news conference in Madison where the Republican Walker explained his plans to cover a $137 million deficit in the state budget that expires in June.
Union leaders were angered when Walker refused to bargain with them, while repeatedly saying that state workers need to pay more for their pensions and health insurance. Today, Walker explained that silence by saying he had nothing to negotiate. In his words, “Good-faith negotiations require give and take,” and the state does not have finances to offer.
The governor said the state’s been broke for years. “It’s about time somebody stood up and told the truth,” he said.
Walker’s plan would only allow state and local public employee unions (including teachers unions) to negotiate their wages – and nothing more than the rate of inflation, unless voters approve higher raises in referendums.
But police and fire unions – who supported Walker in last fall’s election – would be exempt from the rollbacks.
School districts, the state and local governments would be prohibited from collecting union dues. Members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay union dues.
Contracts would be limited to one year, and wages would be frozen until a new contract is settled. Collective bargaining units would be required to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union.
Walker called his plan modest. He said it’s in line with what the private sector’s doing.
Democrats and public union leaders disputed that.
Rick Badger of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees called Walker’s plan “radical” and said it was not “something anyone could roll over and just take.”
Badger said the governor was pitting public workers against themselves.
Walker said he would not ask employees to take more unpaid furlough days beyond the 16 they were supposed to take over the past two years. He told employees in an e-mail that, “Our citizens expect great service and you have delivered.”
State workers contract extension ends March 13
Members of the state government’s largest employee union were told Friday that their current contract extension will expire on March 13.
The state’s Office of Employment Relations sent a letter to the Wisconsin State Employees’ Union which said their latest contract extension would run out in just over a month.
Friday, Gov. Walker asked legislators to strip most of the bargaining rights of public employee and teachers unions throughout the state, except those for police and fire-fighters.
Union leaders and minority leaders called the plan “radical” and “shocking.”
Walker said everyone should have known it was coming. He said he refused to bargain with the unions because the state has no extra money to give them.
Also Friday, Walker told reporters he was prepared to have the National Guard respond if there’s any unrest among state employees – and he has briefed the Guard and state agencies about his security plans.
Walker said he’s confident employees will keep showing up for work, and he does not expect problems. Still, Walker said he’s been working on contingency plans in case state employees do walk out or make trouble.
Walker’s measure would still make public employee strikes illegal in Wisconsin.
Wants vote next week
Walker wants state lawmakers to vote next week on his budget repair bill that takes away bargaining rights from most public employee unions.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said his members would ask a lot of questions, especially about the plan to let most unions negotiate only their wages.
Fitzgerald said last night he was not sure if he had the votes to pass the measure in the Senate. But Friday, the Republican governor said he had no doubt that both houses will pass the bill – because if they don’t, 1,500 state employees will be laid off before June 30, and up to 6,000 more would have to be let go in the following two years. Walker’s bill would also refinance the state’s debt, and would allow the state’s health agency to adopt cuts in Medicaid.
But the Legislature’s Joint Finance panel could still object to what the agency comes up with.
Democrats and union leaders say Republicans are acting way too fast, considering the magnitude of the changes.