Wisconsin: war declared on state workers

Wisconsin Gov Scott Walker

The Governor of the State of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, has just dropped the anvil on public sector workers statewide. This is the start of a nationwide offensive to wipe out public sector unions.

The state are going bankrupt and slipping into default because they refuse to increase revenue from the only potential source left to collect from, income taxes. The answer to this probably is popularly portrayed as needing necessary cuts to state, county and municipal workers pay, health insurance, and pensions. Ultimately the right to collectively bargain will be legally restricted to pay alone, while no pay increases beyond the Consumer Price Index adjusted inflation measure (which is a hedonically weighted fraud that doesn't reflect real price inflation). State workers are asked to contribute between 17% to 18% out of their paychecks to health insurance and pensions–amounting to a massive pay cut. Pay will be frozen for the next three years. University employees would lose the right to form unions. Some 170,000 state, county and municipal workers stand to be affected by this move. AFSCME was born among state sector workers in Wisconsin, to crush the union would be a feather in the cap for the state bosses and could effectively bring about the eventual deaths of all state sector unions nationwide. This will hit teachers hard as well. Further unionization in the state sector would be against the law. Unions stand to lose automatic dues check off that comes out of all workers checks in areas where their union negotiated their work contracts. This could amount to a quarter to a third of all dues payers being off the rolls. This situation is one faced by state workers in Ohio, Florida and around the country, even around the world. The threat to call out the army in this situation is probably not simply a bluff.

The unions already negotiated a deal with the previous administration for $100 million in cuts to benefits along with an outright 3% pay reduction. The Governor was looking for much more than this and could've bargained much more from the unions than they offered in their first offer. He has threatened to call out the National Guard to take over the entire state sector in the event of a strike, which is not likely because state sector workers haven't ever technically had a right to strike and will not be able to go on strike, even if they wanted to. If the state prison guards go on strike, he will have the army come and they will start running the state prisons.

In 1971 when unions got their collective bargaining agreements legislated along with a no strike clause. This was legislated into state law and has been the basis of peace among state sector workers for forty years. This agreement is gone. The best the unions can do is call for a two day protest followed by lobbying of state legislators. There has been a move to recall election of the Governor as well, this is largely just a protest and stands no chance of gaining an actual recall vote. Unions have planned protests in the coming week. The unions will protest this but there is little they can do.

Over the years the State of Wisconsin has farmed out all custodial work to private custodial services that heavily exploit immigrant labor. Thousands of positions have gone unfilled for years. Almost every time a worker with seniority retires a job is eliminated permanently. Office functions have been distributed into a hub system where different branches of educational and government functionaries have been combined into one single support staff.

The current hiring freeze has been in effect for years now and followed a hiring freeze in the 1990s. The use of temporary workers and "limited term employees" has increased alongside the privatization schemes, hiring freezes, and cuts. The previous Governor introduced furlough days that amounted to a three-week unpaid leave (a rolling layoff) for all state employees. On the same token, the legislators voted themselves a 4% pay raise.

Workers here in Madison are asking their unions "when will we go on strike", and many are more than ready to do so, most workers don't realize that there is no "right" to strike here for any government employees. The right to form a union was allowed because of legislation that precluded strike activity and gave collective bargaining and grievance procedures.

Only the police, and firefighters unions were spared from this because they supported the Governor's election bid and were rewarded accordingly. The election bid for Wisconsin governor was typical for capitalist elections. It was bought and paid for by the likes of the billionaire Koch brothers, who have most likely never so much as stepped foot in Wisconsin. So the bourgeoisie elected itself an idiot "businessman" who was given his position at his company by his wife who was the daughter of the founder. The police and firefighters will get cut sooner or later it is only a matter of time, for now their support is useful to the administration in helping to divide and crush the other unions. Without raising revenue, belt-tightening will only beget more belt-tightening. That's the operating idea in order to eliminate the costs associated with variable capital in the state sector.

Students in the state are facing a "Badger Partnership Plan" put forward by the state university administration that aims at increasing their tuition by removing caps on tuition increases. It also aims at eliminating requirements to allot seats for students from Wisconsin to attend their own flagship university. It further seeks to cement the deep relationship between corporate donors and the University's corporate research business.

The State teachers union WEAC has recently given its approval to plans to cut up the Milwaukee Public School district, destroy teacher seniority pay, and introduce "merit pay" determined by administrators who have no real knowledge of what it takes to actually do the work (most ed "reformers" are talking out their asses of course). Either you spend $15,000 to $20,000 per pupil per year or you get what you pay for–a bad education. Milwaukee spends about $12,000 per pupil or less. We have African-American "leaders" in the Urban League stumping for schools segregated by race and sex, in effect supporting a new "separate but equal doctrine" of re-segregation of public schools under the guise of "reform". Milwaukee was a laboratory of reactionary experiments in education such as school voucher programs so that parents could take their students out of Milwaukee schools and get a voucher from the city to pay for their children’s private school educations. This bled yet more needed funding as well as skimming high performing students out of the public schools that affect the test based performance school funding schemes. The AFT, called WEAC here in Wisconsin support these schemes that attack teachers, so school employees cannot rely on them to wage any serious struggle against these attacks.

Taxes in Wisconsin consist of cigarette taxes, alcohol taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, the "Lottery" (taking money from chumps suckered into the dream of "winning") and many similar punitive anti-worker revenue collection measures. The Federal government has long starved the states of funding for those things the federal government has asked the states to do. This in turn has accelerated the bankruptcy of the states. The state-capitalists here are using bankruptcy to shed themselves of expensive pension benefits, just as was done to autoworkers in the "private sector". The states' bond ratings are heavily based upon the state regimes willingness to attack state workers. The refusal of the executive branch in Washington DC, under Clinton, Bush and Obama, has created this situation by refusing to give any aid to the states at all while giving the last of everything to the military and the security apparatus.

This item can be found on the Internationalist Communist Tendency website www.leftcom.org

Some links from the press:
http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_c814c77a-3600-11e0-b9e0-001cc4c03286.html
http://www.thenorthwestern.com/article/20110211/OSH0101/110211081/Walker-says-National-Guard-is-prepared-to-respond-to-unrest-among-state-workers
http://www.postcrescent.com/article/20110212/APC0101/102120538/Walker-defends-fight-with-unions-to-balance-budget
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/12/us/12unions.html
http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_771ea8a7-a71e-5661-8cd4-0f810a91a50d.html
.

Comments

Ed
Feb 16 2011 00:15

Fuck me, that is actually one of the maddest labour stories I've heard coming out of the US in a while..

RanDomino
Feb 16 2011 05:39

It's some real neoliberal austerity Shock Doctrine bullshit, but people aren't taking it lying down. I guess at least 100,000 people protested across the state today. The union leadership is trying to get the bill voted down, but it's doubtful they'll succeed. If that happens, the word "strike" is being thrown around a lot, and there's a good chance all union workers and even many other workers and students would participate. There are already student walk-outs and reportedly a sit-in in the capitol building (which has always been properly considered public property). Maybe Wisconsin will re-learn what a union really is.

If there are any Wobblies reading this, I'm begging you, be a presence at the rallies, as IWW!

Mike Harman
Feb 16 2011 06:04
Blackhawk
Feb 16 2011 15:31

News from sconnieland:

The rally last night had 12,000 people attending at the State Capitol. Rallies were held all across the state as well. The high school students did go out, as did many of the teachers.

The local Wobs are indeed present at the rallies.

The unions are promoting furious lobbying of the same state legislators who gave themselves a 4% pay raise but feel that the state workers under them need to "tighten their belts". I'm not certain what this is supposed to achieve aside from the appearance of having taken action.

Today the state capitol has been locked down. More protests will occur today and tomorrow.

Research assistant and teaching assistants at the universities stand to lose health benefits, some will lose all health benefits. This was one part of the bill I was not previously aware of, a major blow to those who do much of the actual teaching and research in the university system.

Plumber
Feb 16 2011 23:43

A few militants put this on last night. We rented out the entire theater!

http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/grassroots/article_b8243b38-398f-11e0-a7bd-001cc4c03286.html

Blackhawk
Feb 17 2011 18:58

The State Capitol police apparently are among law enforcement not exempted from the bills law enforcement and fire rescue exemption. So the State Capitol police are also getting cut, they mostly stand around giving directions. Limited Term Employees will see all benefits cut, though having worked as a state/university LTE I'm not clear as to what benefits we actually had. As I recall we didn't have any benefits.

It was treated as an inevitability in the media that this bill will be passed and that sacrifices must be made. The government in the last eight months has given tax breaks to capitalists, and pay raises for the state legislature of 4%, but it is everyone else who gets to "share the pain". The union is interested in retaining collective bargaining. Most of the people present are tired of austerity and sacrifices and workers getting thrown under the bus. In actuality, there was little difference between the Dem Party's Doyle and the new Gov., Walker. Even the end of automatic dues checkoffs going to the unions from all workers covered under union contracts wont kill the unions as much as the end of collective bargaining and linking all pay increases to the Consumer Price Index, or to a public referendum.

My soberest guess is that the unions will accept defeat and go home before the bill is ever altered or killed. It is not certain what the unions have in mind to do when the bill gets passed in some form. Plenty of sentiment does exist for broader strike action, but then the gap in the sentiments of the people and the professional contract negotiators of the unions are very apparent.

A friend who is a teacher, told me that the bill for teachers like her would mean about twenty percent loss in take home pay. She, and her family, will probably lose their home.

Blackhawk
Feb 18 2011 19:10
Plumber
Feb 19 2011 01:16

Madison, Wisconsin - Industrial Workers of the World
Emergency Mid-West Meeting
Madison Labor Temple
1602 South Park Street
Madison, WI 53715
2:30pm - 2nd Floor

At present, people are on the streets and in the Capital 24/7. The Tea Party will be at the capital on Saturday February 19 from noon-3pm.
The Democrats have fled the state and a stalemate is ensuring.

Please consider coming this weekend and giving public workers the support they need. We will be making best use of the time that the Democrats have given us by holding an emergency meeting. We are expecting this situation to continue, allowing time for a deeper analysis. We are asking members to understand that we are working with the militant tendencies with-in the existing unions and asserting our perspectives when appropriate. This may be the half way point but it may also be the beginning. The situation is developing steady by itself but we need to direct it towards empowering the rank-n-filers. We will be developing short term strategies to push this forward and long term plans for support.

This will be a chaired meeting that is open to the public but you must have your red card to vote or pass motions. Delegates will be on hand to sign people up and pay dues up. There is a parking lot at the Labor Temple and the room can fit 70 people. We'll have a couple of guest speakers to brief the membership and bring them up to speed on the current events.

For those who can not come please consider supporting the Madison IWW financially.

WIRE:
Industrial Workers of the World
Checking acct number: 36-18008260
Routing number: 275971087

Check:
Madison GMB Mail - PO Box 2442, Madison, WI 53703

Thank You,
Madison IWW secretary
Anthony
I.U. #330
Madison@iww.org

Blackhawk
Mar 13 2011 16:56

Austerity Measures in Wisconsin: The Damage Done

The main measures taken against state sector workers in Wisconsin are these:

[1] Single insurance plans for state workers will increase from $31 per month to $84 dollars per month. For families this will increase from $78 per month, to $208 per month.

[2] Pension contributions taken out of the workers paychecks will rise from .2% of salary to 5.8% and will be taken out of every check from workers gross (before taxes and everything) income.

[3] In all the gross monthly income of $1956.64 for this same $12.229 an hour worker will drop by $197.48 (€142.052) per month to $1759.48 per month in pay before taxes. Since Earned Income Credits and Homestead Tax Credits are being reduced this same worker will see state taxes increase.

[4] Furlough days will continue until June 30, 2011 and must be used up before this time while paycheck deductions will start March 27, 2011.

[5] Union dues will stop being deducted, workers may voluntarily pay dues to the union of $17.56 per paycheck. This is not likely to occur save among loyal union supporters. This measure is of main concern to the Democratic Party and the unions who stand to lose funds because of this, thus they opposed the end of collective bargaining but accepted all the other cuts from the start.

[6] Collective bargaining for everything other than wages, with pay increases rising no higher than the rate of inflation. A wage increase lower than the rate of inflation means a de facto pay cut. There will be no more bargaining over workplace safety, hours, conditions, or benefits.

[7] UW Hospitals and clinic employees, UW faculty and academic staff, home health care workers, family child care workers will lose all collective bargaining rights including for wages.

[8] Removal of collective bargaining may well cost state transit systems $46.6 million in funding from the Federal government.

[9] State heating plants can be sold in "no bid" contracts for pennies. These workers are unionized and will most likely be laid off and replaced as the plants get sold off.

[10] Medicaid/BadgerCare can be altered by the Governor at will without any changes to state laws. This gives the Governor's office extraordinary power over Medicaid and BadgerCare funding. The Governor is already proposing a $500 million dollar cut. These state cuts will result in undetermined reductions in Federal funds as well.

[11] The state's public life insurance program which gives people $10,000 dollars in funeral benefits if they pay into it, will be eliminated along with the jobs of those workers who run the program itself.

[12] School aid cuts combined with local revenue caps will cost the public schools over $750 per student. A class of thirty students (soon to be a rarity) will see a loss of funding of $22,000.

[13] Tax cuts for the capitalists, and tax hikes for the poor are in the bill as mentioned above. The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Homestead Tax Credit will be reduced by $51 million to be paid by the lowest wage earners in the state in both public and private sector employment.

[14] Big construction firms will benefit from a $410 million dollar increase.

[15] General transportation aid will be cut by 10%, or $81.6 million dollars. These funds reimburse costs to counties and municipalities to offset the costs of road construction, maintenance, traffic, and police costs. Yes, even the police will take a cut, contrary to what the Governor claimed when introducing the initial Senate Bill 11. Local governments will have no choice but to lay off and reduce working hours and wages for workers who maintain these county and municipal roads.

[16] Aid to local government will be cut by about 9%, counties by 24%. Ensuing cuts to program for the elderly, the disabled, to public parks, snow removal, libraries, and all services provided by county, city or village governments. Again, layoffs, reductions in work hours and wage cuts will result because of this.

[17] State vocational technical colleges will be cut by $35 million, or 30%. Again, cuts and layoffs will result because of this.

[18] The UW Madison will be privatized under the bill, it is currently run by a state board of regents. Tuition will increase by 20% as aid to the UW system will be cut by $250 million dollars, with a $125 million cut to the UW Madison itself.

[19] The Governor will have the right to fire or terminate workers employment at will in case of any workplace action, or strike, or where three or more days of work have been missed by the state employees.
For further gory details one can go to the following websites:

OSER http://oser.state.wi.us/


ETF http://etf.wi.gov/news/Budget_Repair_Bill_Whats_New.pdf


UW Madison http://budget.wisc.edu/budget-news.employee-benefit-and-retirement-faq/

Final note: next up on the state government's agenda: outlawing all abortion and introducing anti-immigrant legislation. I posted this on the forum at the leftcom.org website as well.

Steven.
Mar 14 2011 11:25

Cheers for that list of changes - did you make it yourself, or did you copy it from somewhere? If the former, it would be good to have that in our library as a stand-alone article

Blackhawk
Mar 14 2011 13:10

I compiled it from two separate lists that have been floating around the union hall here, called the "Labor Temple". There are still items to be added, like the end to recycling programs. I still need to wade through the copies of the bills that were passed.

petey
Mar 30 2012 20:39

update:

Quote:
A federal court has struck down portions of Wisconsin's law curbing collective bargaining rights, saying dues can be automatically withdrawn and annual certification votes can't be required.

http://www.fox11online.com/dpp/news/wisconsin/parts-of-2011-wisconsin-act-10-on-collective-bargaining-struck-down

syndicalist
Jan 19 2013 20:48
Quote:
Federal Appeals Court upholds Wisconsin union law

Posted by William A. Jacobson Friday, January 18, 2013 at 4:43pm
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit has upheld the Wisconsin union law that was the subject of massive protests in 2011, including a takeover of the State Capitol and widespread threats and acts of intimidation. The decision was unanimous in most respects. The full decision is embedded at the bottom of this post.

http://legalinsurrection.com/2013/01/federal-appeals-court-upholds-wisconsin-union-law/