Massive Changes for Public Workers

Governor Scott Walker announced massive changes for state workers today in an effort to meet a $137 million budget shortfall this fiscal year and a projected $3.2 billion gap for the 2011-13 biennium. Walker’s plan cuts benefits and eliminates the ability for unions to negotiate over anything but wages. His plan also restricts future salary increases for represented employees.

The bill would:

  • Require employees in WRS contribute 5.8% of one’s salary toward the annual pension payment
  • Require state employees to pay at least 12.6% of health insurance costs
  • Repeals authority of UW faculty and staff to bargain collectively
  • Repeals collective bargaining for employees of the UW Hospital and Clinics. Currently represented employees will be transferred to the UWHC Authority
  • Keep total wage increases for public union employees to the rate of inflation, unless approved by voters
  • Require public employee unions to take an annual vote to maintain certification. Employers will be prohibited from collecting union dues and payment of dues cannot be required. These changes go into effect upon expiration of current contracts and law enforcement, firefighters and state troopers are exempt. Many of these groups supported Walker in his bid for governor.
  • Prohibit Limited Term Employees from receiving health insurance and participation in WRS
  • Authorizes agencies to terminate any employee who participates in work stoppage or misses 3 days of work during a declared state of emergency without approval of the employer
  • Allow the sale of state heating plants

While Walker enjoys large Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature, passage of the bill as written is not guaranteed. Many key legislators have large numbers of public workers in their districts any may be uncomfortable with the sweeping changes. Senator Luther Olsen told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “(t)he concept is pretty radical. It affects a lot of good working people.” Olsen went on to say that he had reservations about removal of bargaining rights.

Walker reached out to state workers today with an e-mail message thanking them for their service but reiterating that changes were necessary to balance the budget. He also wrote that he will not continue employee furloughs.

edited 2/12/11 to clarify bullet point 8