This may not be the end of public sector unions in Wisconsin, but there will not be much remaining after Governor Walker is through with them. Just an outer husk and a rusty nameplate rattling in the wind.
At least one union president does think this is the end. The WI State Journal quoted AFT union president Bryan Kennedy to say, "This is a shocking development. It ends collective bargaining for public employees in our state ..."
He said that late Thursday afternoon. I would be surprised if he had the details that I have here:
- Only wages may be negotiated -- not work rules, not pensions, not health insurance or other benefits.
- The governor is proposing that unions be required to submit to a majority recertification vote of their members each and every year.
- No longer will the union dues be automatically deducted from members' paychecks; members will have to write their own check.
- No more fair share -- that portion, often around 80 percent -- of union dues that a member of a bargaining unit still pays even though s/he refuses to join the union.
- Employees will pay 5.8% of their salaries toward pensions and 12.6% toward health insurance.
- These rules will apply to local units of government, including schools.
- Local governments can deduct higher health insurance contributions than the 12.6% state employee contribution.
AllNo wages negotiated therecan exceed the CPI cost of living only afterunless approved in a voter referendum.
- Only local police and fire fighters and the state patrol will be exempt.
- Repeals authority of UW faculty and academic staff, University Hospitals, and family child care workers to collectively bargain.
If these terms cannot win legislative approval the state will lay off a total of 6,000 workers in the biennium -- 1,200 of them on June 30.
The governor's office believes it has the votes in both houses. Pressure is being applied to the one or two wobbly Republicans.
What are the implications?
First, but least important, are the immediate savings: $30 million for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30. A more substantial $300 million over the next biennium.
The implication on freeing up our elected policy makers to actually make policy, especially in hidebound school districts like Madison's, is momentous. No longer will School Supt. Nerad need to put up with John Matthews' insolence. All levels of government have an opportunity to be much more flexible as hidebound jurisdictional rules that crippled the Big Three auto plants are discarded. The adversarial atmosphere that unions always produce will dissipate as the chronic malcontents and under-achievers are weeded out.
Yet, public employees will remain handsomely compensated. And employed; the governor has not called for reducing head count. Nor is the state's proud civil service tradition in peril -- merit hiring preceded unionization by some 50 years.
Now, they can be treated as professionals rather than assembly line workers. Our elected representatives cannot blame the unions when our taxes go up or our schools fail.
Is this war?
But this drama is far from over.
The MacIver Institute has already fired a salvo, pointing out that AFSCME boss Marty Beil made $161,847 in 2008 - considerably more than the $144,423 the governor earns.
Unionists are rallying at the Milwaukee state office building Monday morning.
Can they rally supporters to their side or will they turn them off with random acts of lawlessness?
Keep in mind that Gov. Walker still has not played the ultimate card - total dismantlement of what is left of the unions. Work stoppages and vandalism will play into his hand.
Is the tea party about to march into battle on the Governor's side?
Wisconsin is about to get lots more national attention.