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Monday, March 07, 2011

Collective Bargaining saves MPS money, lawsuit

ignorant commenters see union thugs at work, or a Win for Walker

by folkbum

Ye Olde Newspapernet contains an Associated Press [update, now Journal-written] blurb that an infamous lawsuit over a Little Blue Pill has been dropped:
The Milwaukee teachers union has dropped a lawsuit seeking to get its taxpayer-funded Viagra back.

The union sued in July 2010 to force the [Milwaukee Public Schools] school board to again include the erectile dysfunction drug and similar pills in its health insurance plans. [. . .] Court records indicate the union, the school board and the state labor commission agreed to dismiss the lawsuit on March 1.
Confused partisans infesting the Newspapernet's comment-teria have taken up strident assertions of which they know nothing and for which they muster no evidence. The lack of detail in the AP newslet is partly to blame of course, but so is the well-known cultural phenomenon of IHAVEACOMPUTERSOIMRIGHTSHUTUP, a syndrome all but unavoidable in the Newspapernet's comment corrals for the past month or so.

Says one ignoble typist: "This particular law suite [sic] is a perfect example of how the union bullies the state around to get it's [sic] way." Says another, heralding a victory that never happened: "Anybody who doesn't think this is a result of the move to change their bargaining rights is just naive. They clearly are taking this off the table because it was one of the best examples of union abuse out there." And a third fool: "Amazing - Walker has already won."

The real story is, of course, less exciting. A few months back, the local education concern and its workers settled a long-overdue contract*. Teachers--and don't be shocked when I say this, gentle readers, I am one of them!--conceded two full years of pay freezes, greater employee contribution to the cost of health insurance, and a new drug co-pay plan that shifts more costs to teachers, too. This contract saved the local education concern tens of millions in wage concessions and will save tens of millions more once the health insurance and drug changes start taking effect April 1.

The new drug plan, in addition to shifting more costs to employees, includes a new co-pay tier that covers non-preferred or non-formulary drugs. Teachers will pay a much larger share of the real cost of these drugs--a list much longer than Viagra, by the way--but they become a little bit more affordable (in the battle between Public Servant and Big Pharma, Public Servant always loses). The district still saves money, the union gets a concession for its teachers, and a lawsuit gets dropped.

This all happened because of a quaint little thing called "collective bargaining." You may have heard of it, as it's been in the news lately. Because both sides were at the table, both sides offered concessions until a deal was struck. The contract was long overdue because the previous administrators of the district had little interest in bargaining or making deals. (Sound familiar? It has become clear in recent days why Scott Walker opposes collective bargaining--he doesn't believe in concessions and deals!) New leadership led to reinvigorated talks and a quick settlement.

The ability of local units of government and their employees to make good deals like this is about to be scotched. Here's a success story to suggest why snuffing it out is foolish.

* The new contract is supposed to last four years. In the event that the contract lasts more than four years, labor and management should seek arbitration immediately.

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